10 Unusual Ways Prisoners Can Reduce Their Sentences

In the vast majority of cases, those inmates who are incarcerated in prisons will not want to be there. Having their liberty taken away from them means that most prisoners will want to do whatever they can to get out as quickly as possible, and long before their sentence ends. While there are some well-known ways to get out from behind bars early, such as exceptionally good behavior or providing information on other criminals, they are not widespread and suitable to every prisoner.

For those who can’t get time off for good behavior and don’t have information, the only other option may be to try to escape. However, this comes with plenty of risks. The person will be a fugitive and will have to live on the run, constantly in fear that they will be caught and face an even greater punishment. Amazingly though, this isn't the only option available to inmates. Many prisons around the world offer unique and surprising ways for people to commute their sentences, either by taking part in special programs or by carrying out unusual tasks. In these instances, prisoners can shave time off their in jail term, while also bettering themselves and providing valuable services. This article will look at 10 of the strangest and most bizarre ways that prisoners around the world can reduce their sentences or unusual instances whereby they were offered deals.

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10 Firefighting

California suffers from forest fires on an annual basis and the problem can be so bad that traditional firefighting units are simply not large enough to be able to tackle the problem without outside help. This issue was addressed when the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection set up a program that would allow inmates in California prisons to volunteer to help tackle forest fires. The labor program is similar to those used in prisons around the world, allowing prisoners to get sentence reductions for the work they do, and the inmates make up about 50% of the workforce. Violent criminals, those involved in sex crimes and arsonists are all excluded from the program, along with those serving very short sentences as time and money spent carrying out extensive training is seen as wasteful. When not fighting fires, the prisoners also help to control floods and maintain park areas.

9 Reading Books


Brazil has shown that it is willing to try out a variety of experimental programs that will not just help to reduce the stress on the prison system by shortening sentences, but also to help rehabilitate them and ensure prisoners do not re-offend. One of the most notable has been the one introduced in 2012, that can see inmates in Brazilian facilities remove four days from their sentence for every single book that they read. There are some caveats though, to ensure that prisoners cannot take advantage of the program. The maximum amount of books that qualify is limited to just 12 a year, while only books relating to classic literature, science and philosophy are considered. Officials can also ask for proof that the books have been read by requesting essays and book reports.

8 Exercising


Another Brazilian prison program that has been initiated in a mall facility near Sao Paulo. It sees inmates cycling on special stationary bicycles that are attached to a generator and a battery, so that cycling provides electricity to charge the battery. It has several positives. It provides clean energy to the local plaza that lowers the cost of providing the electricity, provides security for those using the plaza thanks to the light, provides a way for prisoners to exercise and to think about what they have done, while also reducing the strain of an overcrowded prison system. There is no limit on how much a prisoner can use the stationary bicycles for, and for every 16 hours of exercise carried out, a day will be taken off the sentence. This allowed some to get as much as a 20-day reduction on their sentence in just two months.

7 Inventing


An interesting part of law in China allows for prisoners to have sentences shortened or commuted if they use their talents and intellect to create inventions, while serving their time in prison. Prisoners who have patents registered in their name during their sentence can apply to have sentences reduced, with some receiving more than a year off after submitting just four patents. Unfortunately though, some rich prisoners have taken advantage of the system and have paid others to register patents on their behalf. It is a risky tactic though, as the law specifically points out that all inventions must be the prisoner’s and not someone else’s, meaning they could be convicted of fraud.

6 Yoga


The prison system in India is much like those in other developing countries. It is vastly overcrowded, meaning that the vast majority of prisoners cannot even get to trial, never mind be placed in a prison to serve their sentence. This backlog has left officials having to come up with inventive ways to reduce the number of prisoners and to reduce sentences to ease the problem. One notable program that India now runs is centered around yoga. Many prisons now offer special yoga classes to allow inmates to stretch, relax and use special breathing techniques. After taking part for three months, 15 days are cut from the overall sentence, allowing up to 60 days a year to be cut in total. The program allows prisons to accept new inmates, while hopefully teaching the prisoners techniques that will help them when they leave.

5 Fighting


Thailand has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the world, thanks to its hard line approach to fighting crime and crippling under-investment in the facilities and staff. This has left prison officials desperate to find ways to ease the burden on their own buildings by experimenting with programs that see sentences being reduced and in some cases, commuted entirely. To that end, the Thailand Department of Corrections introduced a system, whereby prisoners could compete in brutal Muay Thai and boxing competitions. If they manage to beat their opponents and progress through the tournaments, they get special dispensation to see their warden, who may then reduce the sentence if their prison history is suitable.

4 Getting A Vasectomy


In 2014, a prosecutor in Richmond, Virginia, offered a unique deal to a 27-year-old man who was due to be sentenced to a very long term in prison. In exchange for Jessie Lee Herald agreeing to have a vasectomy, the prosecutor would shorten the sentence by a total of five years, a significant amount of time. The bizarre deal was offered as a way of ensuring that when Herald is eventually released from prison, he would be able to support his current children effectively, rather than having to rely on benefits that would cost the taxpayer significantly. The prosecutor argued that with 7 children to six different women, the vasectomy offer was justified, despite the fact that his crime had no sexual elements.

3 Knitting


In another case of Brazil experimenting in ways to help rehabilitate offenders and ease the burden on the country’s prison system, a high security prison in Juiz de Fora offers a knitting program that is organized by acclaimed designer, Raquel Guimaraes. This allows for items of clothing to be produced at a much lower price, giving the designer a good deal. However, the program has two benefits for the inmates who take part in it. Firstly, they are awarded a day’s reduction in their sentence for every 3 days of knitting and secondly, they receive a wage for their work that is 75% of the national minimum wage. This means that they will have some funds available to them when they leave prison.

2 Cleaning


Cleaning in a prison is unlike cleaning in most other publicly funded facilities. The fact that the inmates can be violent and cause serious injuries to others, as well as the fact that they may protest by smearing feces and other bodily fluids on their walls and floors, means that expensive materials may need to be used. Additionally, the risk of hazardous materials needing to be cleaned up also leaves prisons having to foot large bills for specialists cleaning equipment and staff. Some facilities though have found a way around this. Instead of paying for civilian cleaners to do the work, prisoners can do the job in exchange for having the time spent cleaning taken off their sentence.

1 Memorizing The Quran


Gaza, the Palestinian nation that borders Egypt and is occupied by Israel, was once governed entirely by the group Hamas. Due to the fact that Hamas also has religious connections and because Gaza is almost entirely lived in by Muslims, the Quran plays an important role in worship. This is the reason behind the fact that prisons in Gaza offer a unique program, whereby inmates who are incarcerated in them can have their sentence commuted by as much as a year for memorizing parts of the holy text. Hamas hopes that the program will encourage the prisoners to live by the teaching of the Quran, so that they will not commit further crimes when released.

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