Forward By Christopher
Open Letter By Tara Snyder #102660 (ORW) (OH)
I normally avoid policy issues, but the issue that Tara Snyder, a female prisoner in OH, brings attention to here today is important to inmates and their families.
At the heart of her open letter is the loss of what is known as “earned credit”. Earned credit is the ability of OH inmates to receive a reduction in their sentences for attending certain self-help programs, schooling, and participating in other positive rehabilitative efforts. Earned credit is a driving incentive to OH prisoners to take their time seriously, and to pursue a constructive path.
The issue of earned credit isn’t unique to OH alone. Prisoners across the country face similar hardships involving loss of recognition for their positive efforts due to Covid restrictions.
From a socio-economic standpoint, when prisoners lose their ability to gain early release there is a tangible impact on public resources. States incur additional expenses when prisoners remain in custody longer.
From a rehabilitative standpoint, when an incentive is lost to pursue constructive paths there is a net negative outcome. I witness it here every day.
Many prisoners are mothers and fathers. Their continued absence from home impacts children, spouses, and family.
This is one issue that can be addressed through policy directive and made retroactive. To do so would benefit all parties involved.
(AN OPEN LETTER)
To Whom It May Concern:
It is the policy of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Number 80-INC-02, Earned Credit for productive program participation, for inmates to receive good days resulting in reductions of their sentences. Under section VI. Procedures, C. Incarcerated Individuals Eligibility for Earned Credit, #11., states “The incarcerated individual must attend at least 75% of the available program sessions during the month – with no unexcused absences.”
Since March 2020 all ODRC inmates enrolled in schooling have been unable to attend regular classroom sessions due to the pandemic, thus resulting in forfeiture of earned credit reductions as stated in the above policy. For the last 10 months’ students have worked diligently to overcome the many obstacles independent study has produced. Without adequate classroom settings, students have continuously produced rewarding results. With limited resources, little guidance, no-direct access to teachers, and working from bunk beds in large ove-rcrowded dorms; most would find it difficult to thrive in these environments — yet many students have, knowing how crucial education is to rehabilitation.
In August 2020, the building used for education at ORW collapsed. To date, it is still under construction and unable to be used. The pandemic alone should have raised concerns for policy change for receiving earned credit, as social distancing and prison overcrowding was an issue to be tackled. Combined with the deplorable conditions of the education building, ODRC should have reconsidered eligibility under the given circumstances. Yet, policy number 80-INC-02, was updated September 4, 2020, six months into the pandemic and a month following the structure failure.
In ODRC Directives and Forms, policy number 01-COM-01, under section VI. Procedures, G. Policy Variance, #1., it states “A variance process is available to accommodate local facility or agency-wide issues that arise and may require a facility or facilities to deviate from an ODRC policy, section of policy, or operation manual until the next scheduled annual revision is complete.” Many deviations in policies have occurred throughout the pandemic from count times, mealtimes, and even programming. So, my question is during these perilous times when overcrowding is a volatile issue, why was no variance made under the policy procedures of ODRC?
I know many situations throughout the pandemic were beyond control and brought new challenges worldwide, not just to the penal system, but knowing other deviations were made possible, it is troublesome knowing the amount of time students have been denied. My situation alone was affected 45 days. Some inmates would have left already and still could very soon if earned credit was made retroactive. I am trying to bring light to this policy and the importance that a variance be made during this pressing time.
Thank you for your time.
Read more of Tara’s thoughts and writings by going to her blog Judgementoverjustice.WordPress.com.