The Impact of Truth-in-Sentencing on Prison Violence and Misconduct The New Nersey Experience

Patrick F. McManimon, Jr., Marist College

ABSTRACT
New Jersey's legislature passed its version of "truth-in-sentencing" legislation in 1997. The "No Early Release Act" (NERA) required offenders sentenced under its provisions serve a minimum term of incarceration of 85% of the imposed sentenced. In effect, offenders would not be eligible for good time credits, raising the operational question concerning the effect on inmate behavior. Would inmates with no-hope of parole have higher incidences of misconduct than inmates sentenced under previous laws?

Routine delays in the implementation of the law due to lag time in court processes set up a natural experimental design between violent offenders sentenced pre and post NERA. The study examines the number of infractions as well as the presence or absence of rule infractions for violent offenders during the first year of their incarceration (1998). Inmates' disciplinary records were tracked for the first year of each offender's incarceration. The disciplinary infractions of a second control group, non-violent offenders, sentenced during 1998 are also reported.

The results of this study are important to the increasing body of knowledge concerning effective and efficient use of prison security levels to control inmate conduct and to the question concerning the effect of good time on prisoner behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006