Source: (2012) Wisconsin Law Review. 235: 195-236

Good-time programs have long been an important part of the American penal landscape. At least twenty-nine states and the federal government currently offer prison inmates early release, sometimes by many years, in return for good behavior. Written a generation ago, the leading law review article on good time presented a strong case against such programs. Although good time is traditionally justified by reference to its usefulness in deterring inmate misconduct-credits can be denied or withdrawn as a penalty for violations of prison rules-the article questioned how it could possibly be just to impose additional incarceration based on mere violations of administrative regulations. In response to this important challenge, the present Essay proposes a new way to conceptualize good-time credits, specifically, as a way to recognize atonement. Drawing on communicative theories of punishment, the Essay argues that good time can be seen as congruent with (and not, as is commonly supposed, in opposition to) the basic purposes of sentencing. The Essay then proposes reforms that would help good-time programs more fully to embody the atonement model.(Author's Abstract)