gain time | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Corrections

Gain time is a term that is used in the criminal justice context to refer to the reduction of an individual’s sentence as a result of good behavior or participation in rehabilitation programs while they are incarcerated.

Gain time is generally earned by following institutional rules and regulations, participating in educational or vocational programs, and maintaining a good disciplinary record.

The amount of gain time an individual can earn can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the type of offense, and the length of the sentence, but it is generally a percentage of the sentence. For example, in some states, an individual may be able to earn up to 15% of their sentence as gain time.

The purpose of gain time is to reward individuals for good behavior and to encourage participation in programs that can help reduce their risk of reoffending. It can also help to reduce prison overcrowding, as well as decrease costs of corrections.

Gain time can also be revoked or reduced if an individual violates institutional rules or fails to participate in required programs. In some jurisdictions, it can also be used as a way to incentivize inmates to participate in the programs, since failure to complete a program can lead to the loss of gain time.

It’s important to note that the availability and the conditions of earning gain time can vary by jurisdiction and the type of crime committed, as well as specific conditions on the prisoner conduct and the program completion. In some states, gain time is not available for certain types of crimes, such as violent crimes or sex offenses, or at all.

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Last Modified: 01/11/2023


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