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What Are The Rules For Serving Prison Time?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- In 2011, a federal judge sentenced former auto dealer Denny Hecker to 10 years in prison. Seven-and-a-half years later, he's out.

On Tuesday, Hecker was released from a halfway house.

So, what are the rules for serving time?

"Everyone who goes to federal prison, unless they screw up badly while they're in prison, they get 15 percent off their sentence for what's called good time," says criminal defense attorney Joe Friedberg. "That's built into the system as a way of giving inmates a way to act OK."

Federal inmates can also knock off another year in prison by entering a drug and alcohol rehab program called RDAP. Upon release from prison, those inmates enter a halfway house for up to six months.

But whether or not a federal inmate completes RDAP, once he or she leaves prison, that inmate is put on supervised release, or what many people know as parole, until the end of their sentence.

Where the inmate lives and their level of supervision will depend on who they are and what crimes they've committed. Some inmates will go home to family, others might go to a facility.

In rare cases, they will have to wear an ankle monitor. Most will have weekly check-ins with an officer.

Friedberg doesn't know the specifics of Hecker's release, but says "there's a lot of things he can't do without permission."

Those restrictions might include who he associates with, where he works and what he does, as well scrutiny of his financial assets and drug tests.

Standard sentences in Minnesota also use this kind of determinant sentencing. But, in Minnesota's case, prisoners serve two-thirds of their sentence behind bars and the remaining third on supervised release.

There are no parole boards (except in cases where prisoners are given life sentences with the possibility of parole.)

Under this system, the idea is that inmates need time to adjust to life on the outside.

"He's not getting any less," says Friedberg, referring to the federal system. "The judge knows when he gives someone 10 years, he's going to be in there eight-and-a-half."

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