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KUNC and Chalkbeat discuss new bill that could reduce prison sentences for nonviolent offenders

Professor Delia Mellis leads a class offered under the Bard Prison Initiative. The initiative works to provide incarcerated men and women opportunities to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences.
Cameron Robert
Professor Delia Mellis leads a class offered under the Bard Prison Initiative. House Bill 1037, which the House Judiciary Committee approved 11-2, would allow people incarcerated for nonviolent offenses in Colorado to earn time off their sentence if they get a college degree or credential.

Prisoners in Colorado may soon be able to use education as a pathway to shorter sentences.

A new bill at the State Capitol would allow inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes to earn time off for each degree or certification they receive while incarcerated. It was approved by the Judiciary Committee last week and is awaiting a preliminary vote in the House.

Jason Gonzales, the higher education and legislative matters reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, told KUNC the bill would allow inmates to reduce their sentences by up to 6 months for a short-term credential; that goes up to a year for prisoners who earn a bachelor's or master's degree.

"There is some conversation about extending that time, and really making it so there's more incentive," Gonzalez said.

House Bill 1037is based on national research about incarceration. The data shows incarcerated students who earn a degree are less likely to re-offend.

Gonzalez said the bill has wide bipartisan support and that reducing recidivism rates will save the state money.

To pass, the bill still has to clear the state House and Senate, then it will go to Governor Jared Polis for a signature.

To read the full story, visit The Chalkbeat story here on KUNC.

As a reporter and host for KUNC, I follow the local stories of the day while also guiding KUNC listeners through NPR's wider-scope coverage. It's an honor and a privilege to help our audience start their day informed and entertained.