Changing the Sentence Without Hiding the Truth: Judicial Sentence Modification as a Promising Method of Early Release

49 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2010 Last revised: 12 Apr 2011

Date Written: March 21, 2010


Last year, as the State of California struggled with a $42 billion budget deficit, its financial inability to correct constitutionally-deficient prison conditions led a federal court to order the release of 40,000 state prisoners. In Oregon, Michigan, Connecticut, Vermont, and Delaware, spending on corrections now exceeds spending on higher education. Across the nation, more than 1 of every 100 Americans is behind bars. When the financial crisis of 2008 dealt its blow, state correctional budgets were already nearing a breaking point. Now, in the wake of unprecedented budget shortfalls, state governments have been forced to confront a difficult reality: the ever-increasing prison population has come at too high a price. The question is no longer whether to reduce the number of prisoners, but how.

Reversing years of ever-harsher sentencing policies, jurisdictions throughout the United States are trying to cut costs by expanding good time credit, increasing parole eligibility, and authorizing new forms of early release. This Article examines judicial sentence modification, an often overlooked ameliorative mechanism that has potential benefits many other forms of early release lack. For states wishing to promote early release in a manner that is both transparent and publicly accountable, judicial sentence modification is a promising, and potentially sustainable, new mechanism for sentence reduction.

Keywords: Sentence Modification, Sentence Reduction, Early Release, Prisons, Incarceration, Budget Crisis, Parole, Good Time, Earned Release Credit, Meritorious Good Time, Compassionate Release, Criminal Law, Criminal Justice, Sentencing

Suggested Citation

Klingele, Cecelia M., Changing the Sentence Without Hiding the Truth: Judicial Sentence Modification as a Promising Method of Early Release (March 21, 2010). William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 52, 2010, Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1109, Available at SSRN:

Cecelia M. Klingele (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-890-3258 (Phone)

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