How can inmates earn good-time credits in Colorado prisons?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jan 02, 2019 | 0 Comments

The majority of Colorado State Prison inmates may collect up to 10 days a month of "earned time" to reduce their sentences. There are five ways inmates can accrue this "earned time":

  1. Participating in self-help groups and counseling sessions;
  2. Participating in work and training programs, which comprises cooperating with others, performing well, being punctual, and practicing safety;
  3. Group living, which comprises maintaining personal hygiene, cooperating with others, and keeping house;
  4. Moving towards the goals as instituted by the Colorado Diagnostic Program (which evaluates inmates and sets up a roadmap for rehabilitation and employment following imprisonment); and
  5. Making progress in their educational programs and/or literacy classes

Note that defendants who have been released from prison on parole can also accrue earned time to reduce their parole periods by:

  1. Not harassing the victim, and
  2. Otherwise complying with parole conditions

Also note that the amount of available "earned time" is increased from 10 days to 12 days a month for eligible defendants convicted of either:

  • class 4 felonies,
  • class 5 felonies,
  • class 6 felonies,
  • level 3 drug felonies, or
  • level 4 drug felonies

Therefore, prison inmates who successfully accrue all the available earned time can reduce their sentences by a third or more.

Felony parole in Colorado and earned time

Even inmates who do not accrue any "earned time" are typically eligible for parole after serving only half (50%) of their original sentence. Therefore, the majority of Colorado prisoners may be eligible for release much earlier than what their original sentence calls for:

Example: Tom gets convicted of theft in Colorado as a class 2 felony. The judge sentences him to 20 years in prison, making him eligible for parole after 10 years. If Tom collects all of his earned time (10 days a month), he should be eligible for release after only about 7 years. Therefore, he could get out about 13 years early.

Note that inmates convicted of a class 1 felony are not entitled to parole after only 50% of their sentence has been served. Depending on the convictions, they may be either completely ineligible for parole or eligible after 75% of the sentence has been served. Learn more about Colorado mandatory parole laws.

Misdemeanor earned time in Colorado

Inmates in county jails for Colorado misdemeanor convictions can also earn time off of their sentences. They are not eligible for parole like most felony inmates, but they may shave off up to half of their sentence by earning:

  1. good time credits,
  2. earned time, and/or
  3. trustee time

Two (2) days of "good time" credits per month are available to inmates who do not cause trouble.

Three (3) days of "earned time" per month are available to inmates who do well in their programs or classes or achieve other impressive accomplishments.

Ten (10) days of "trustee time" per month are available to inmates who are classified as trusty prisoners by the sheriff and who do work programs.

Therefore, inmates may be able to earn up to 15 total days a month off of their sentence.

Also see our article on applying for a sentence commutation in Colorado.

Legal References

Colorado Revised Statutes 17-22.5-403 C.R.S.

Colorado Revised Statutes 17-22.5-405 C.R.S.

Colorado Revised Statutes 17-26-109 C.R.S.

Colorado Revised Statutes 17-26-115 C.R.S.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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