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Prison education: It should not mean early release

March 03. 2012 11:18PM

New Hampshire House members should heed the advice of former Speaker Donna Sytek and kill House Bill 1654, which would further damage the 'truth-in-sentencing'' law that Sytek helped pass during her legislative tenure.

The bill, which may be voted on this Wednesday, allows prisoners to reduce even their minimum prison sentence based on how many education courses they complete. The effect is cumulative. A prisoner would get out four months early if he completed high school and a half-year early for any degree program.

There is nothing wrong with a prisoner improving his education. A lot of inmates might not be behind bars had they applied themselves to education in the first place.

But education in prison should be its own reward. Prisoners know that they are less likely to return if they have accomplished some formal learning while behind bars.

'Victims like to know if a perpetrator is sent away for five to 10 years, they're not going to have to worry about seeing him earlier now because he got a Ph.D.,'' said Sytek, who now sits on the Adult Parole Board.

Sytek's case would be stronger, of course, had she not backed Gov. John Lynch in his successful push for passage of an earlier get-out-of-jail-early card. That law was subsequently modified by the current Legislature, which ought to keep that in mind when it deals with HB 1654.

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