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‘The Trouble with Time Served’

June 23, 2022

Prof. Kimberly Kessler Ferzan L’95 expounds upon her research and scholarship on the problems associated with crediting time served.

In a recent interview with the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, Kimberly Kessler Ferzan L’95, Earle Hepburn Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, explained why crediting time served is harmful and should be abandoned. Ferzan, whose work focuses on criminal law theory, is also Co-Director of the Institute for Law & Philosophy.

From the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice:

Throughout America’s courtrooms, granting time served to a person’s sentence is a common practice.

A person who was held in pretrial detention before their conviction or accepting a plea is often credited time back they spent detained, whether it’s a couple of days or months off their sentence.

While it seems like a small benefit in a largely unjust criminal legal system, Kimberly Kessler Ferzan argues the practice is actually detrimental and should be abandoned.

In her article “The Trouble With Time Served,” Ferzan, a professor of law with the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and co-director of the Institute of Law & Philosophy, says that time served harms people who are innocent and can induce someone to plead guilty in return for getting out of jail.

“The Supreme Court keeps telling us that pretrial detention is not punishment, and yet we turn around and give credit for time served and count it toward punishment,” Ferzan told NPPJ.

We spoke with Ferzan about her article and her ideas for a better model to replace the time-served practice… .

Read Ferzan’s full interview.