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House passes bill to reduce prison sentences for inmates pursuing higher education

House Bill 1037 would allow non-violent offenders to deduct between six months and two years off their sentence, depending on the level of the degree.
Credit: FILE

DENVER — An effort to incentivize Colorado prisoners to pursue higher education took a major step forward on Tuesday, receiving near-unanimous approval from the state House of Representatives. 

House Bill 1037 would deduct six months from an inmate’s prison sentence for earning a certificate while incarcerated, one year for an associate or bachelor’s degree, 18 months for a master's degree and two years for a doctorate degree. The program would only apply to non-violent offenders. Prisoners released prior to completing their degree could finish to earn time off of parole. 

The bill will next need approval from the Senate and governor before taking effect. 

"Getting them connected to education lowers recidivism and helps them get their lives back on track," said bill sponsor Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista, who worked at the Adams State University Prison Education Program before being elected. "They become productive members of society and that's better for all of Colorado."

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