Guide to Federal Good Time Credit

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Federal good time credit serves as a mechanism for encouraging positive behavior and rehabilitation within the federal prison system. Acquiring a basic understanding of how it works, the factors influencing its application, and the potential challenges involved is vital for inmates looking to make the most of this opportunity for sentence reduction.

An experienced criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Hernandez & Hamilton, PC can handle the legal challenges associated with reducing your sentence. Our dedicated lawyers will aggressively defend your right to get a reduced sentencing based on your good behavior and work towards the best possible outcome.

Inmate Holding Prison Cell bars

What Is Federal Good Time Credit?

Federal prison good time credit is a federal system that allows inmates to earn a reduction in their sentences while staying within the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) custody based on good behavior and participation in rehabilitative programs. It serves as an incentive for federal inmates to engage in positive activities, contributing to their personal growth and rehabilitation.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) of the First Step Act, a federal inmate can earn good time credit through various means, such as maintaining good conduct, participating in educational or vocational programs, and fulfilling work assignments. The specific calculation of the credit can vary, and certain limitations or exclusions may apply based on the nature of the offenses and the inmate’s behavior during their sentence. This is different from mandatory minimums and home confinement.

Earning Federal Good Time Credit

It is important to note that the specific criteria and opportunities for earning federal good time credit can vary. Additionally, there may be limitations and exclusions based on the nature of your offenses or disciplinary history. However, these are a few common ways you can accrue good time credit.

  • Good Behavior: Maintaining good conduct and adhering to prison rules is a fundamental factor in earning federal good time credit. Inmates who demonstrate positive behavior, respect for authority, and compliance with regulations are eligible for these credits.
  • Participation in Programs: Engaging in educational, vocational, or rehabilitation programs offered within the prison can earn federal prisoners good time credit. These programs aim to equip individuals with skills and knowledge that contribute to their personal development and successful reintegration into society.
  • Work Assignments: Performing work duties assigned by the prison authorities is another avenue for earning good time credit. Inmates involved in productive work within the prison community can receive credit as a recognition of their positive contribution.
  • Treatment Programs: Participating in specific treatment programs, especially those addressing issues like drug addiction or mental health, can contribute to earning good time credit. Completion of such programs reflects a commitment to personal improvement and rehabilitation.
  • Positive Work Performance: Demonstrating a positive work ethic and fulfilling assigned responsibilities in a diligent manner can contribute to the earning of good time credit. This includes being reliable, cooperative, and showing a commitment to assigned tasks.

Individuals convicted after April 26, 1996, fall under the regulations outlined in the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The congress passed the PLRA after incorporating educational criteria into the consideration of “good time.” This means you will be eligible for good time credits only if you possess or are in the process of acquiring a high school diploma or an equivalent GED.

Road Sign With Words Recidivism And Rehabilitation On It

How is Good Time Credit Calculated?

The calculation of good time credit in the federal prison system involves a predetermined percentage reduction applied to an inmate’s sentence based on their positive behavior and participation in various programs.

Percentage Reduction

Good time credit is typically expressed as a percentage of the inmate’s sentence that can be reduced. For example, if the policy stipulates a 15% reduction, an inmate with a 100-month sentence may be eligible for a 15-month reduction through good time credit.

Accumulation of Credits

Inmates earn credits over time by maintaining good behavior, participating in educational or vocational programs, completing treatment programs, and fulfilling work assignments. The accumulated credits contribute to the overall reduction in their sentence.

Program Participation

Engaging in specific programs, such as educational courses or rehabilitation initiatives, can result in additional credits. The more actively you participate in such programs, the more credits you may accumulate.

Disciplinary Record

Some prison systems may have provisions for the loss of good time credits in the event of disciplinary infractions. Negative behavior or rule violations can lead to a reduction in previously earned credits.

Limitations and Exclusions

Certain offenses or legal restrictions, such as use of powder cocaine or crack cocaine may limit or exclude you from earning or fully benefiting from good time credit. Violent crimes or serious disciplinary issues, such as drug trafficking may impact eligibility too. In fact, recidivism risk is a primary reason why federal bureau of prisons and state prisons believe in supervised release before the actual time.

Educational Attainment

In some cases, the level of educational attainment, such as having a high school diploma or GED, may influence the amount of good time credit an inmate can earn. Meeting educational requirements can be a factor in eligibility. There are several educational opportunities for inmates serving longer sentences that can allow them to have their imposed sentence reduced.

Prison Policies

Each federal prison may have its own policies and procedures for calculating and applying federal good time credit. In general, a prisoner’s sentence for minor criminal histories is generally reduced after a thorough risk and needs assessment. An independent review committee will decide your pre release custody based on sentencing reforms.

You should speak to a lawyer to learn more about the specific rules of the institution where you are serving your actual sentence. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will help you take the right steps during your incarceration to reduce your sentence on good behavior.

Maximum Amount of Federal Good Time Credit

The calculation of good time credit involves a specific formula as outlined in the law. According to 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), a prisoner serving a term of more than a year or life imprisonment may receive credit toward their sentence, beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year. However, the prisoner’s life should clearly have displayed exemplary compliance. The Bureau of Prisons often applies a prorated calculation, leading to a maximum of around 47 days of credit per year.

The key to this prorated calculation by the government accountability office lies in the BOP’s use of the 366-day model to start, subtracting the 54 days. This results in a 319-day sentence, and with the additional 47 days of good time credit, the total becomes 366 days.

Despite the clarity of the law, there are challenges and discrepancies in the assessment system of good time credit. The interpretation and prorated calculation method for early release of the federal bureau have been a subject of contention, leading to debates about the accuracy and fairness of the system. Unfortunately, this adds to the burdened federal prison population. Qualifying inmates should be given fair release dates if they are in the final portion of their sentence imposed.

This makes it important to work with a qualified defense attorney who understands federal prisons and mandatory minimum sentences to fight for your rights in the event of a dispute.

Empty Prison Kitchen

Accumulating Good Time Credit to Reduce Your Sentence

Good time credit is typically awarded at the end of each year of an inmate’s term of imprisonment. This calculation considers the inmate’s behavior, compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations, and other qualifying factors throughout the year. It also depends on the prisoner’s sentence, prior convictions, actual time served, prisoner’s life expectancy, and BOP’s interpretation of exemplary behavior.

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has a 15-day window from the end of the year to calculate and award good time credit. For example, if an inmate’s sentence began on October 5, their credit should be calculated and awarded by October 20 of each subsequent year.

There is usually no residential reentry center or halfway house for inmates released from federal custody on good credit. The prisoner’s life should be without security concerns though.

Discovering the Amount of Good Time Credit an Inmate Has Earned

Every inmate has a Central File, which serves as a comprehensive record of their entire stay in prison. The file is maintained by prison authorities and is a vital resource for understanding various aspects of an inmate’s status. These are important sections in the file:

  • Section 1 – Sentence Data/Detainers/IFRP: Contains information related to sentence data and any detainers.
  • Section 4 – Disciplinary, Work, and Education Reports: Includes details on disciplinary actions, work records, and educational progress.

Your attorney can submit a request to the appropriate prison authorities, obtaining access to review your Central File and other records for the purpose of checking good time credit. Disciplinary actions can impact the amount of good time credit awarded as per the fair sentencing act. If there are discrepancies or inaccuracies, you should address them through the appropriate channels.

Actions That Can Lead to Losing Good Time Credit

These are the key considerations regarding the potential for the revocation or reduction of good time credit within the federal prison system:

  • Disciplinary Actions: If you engage in misconduct or violate prison rules, it can result in disciplinary actions. Depending on the severity of the misconduct, the Bureau of Prisons may reduce or revoke a portion of the inmate’s earned good time credit.
  • Behavioral Compliance: Good time credit is often linked to an inmate’s exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations. Any departure from expected behavior may lead to a reduction in the amount of credit awarded.
  • “Good Cause” Determination: The BOP has the discretion to reduce or eliminate good time credit for what they consider “good cause.” This term is broadly interpreted and may include actions such as participating in riots, refusing to work, or engaging in hunger strikes.
  • Undiscovered Incidents: If the BOP discovers incidents or rule violations after initially awarding good time credit, they may revise the credit calculation. In such cases, an inmate might lose previously awarded credit.

You have certain due process rights in the context of potential reductions in good time credit. This includes the right to fair treatment, notice of disciplinary actions, and an opportunity to be heard.

Inmates Working Inside Prison

Why Do You Need a Proven Criminal Defense Attorney on Your Side?

A seasoned criminal defense attorney plays a key role in obtaining good time credit for their client within the federal prison system. Your lawyer can assess your eligibility for good time credit based on various factors, including the nature of the offense, behavior in prison, and compliance with educational requirements. They ensure that you meet the criteria set forth by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).

They will also advise you on the type of exemplary behavior required, participation in educational programs, and other activities that contribute to a positive record within the prison system. They will develop strategic plans to maximize your chances of earning good time credit.

During the sentencing phase, defense attorneys may negotiate with prosecutors to obtain a plea deal or sentence that allows for more favorable good time credit calculations. Skilled negotiation can influence the terms of the sentence in ways that benefit the client’s eligibility for credit.

In cases where there are disputes or discrepancies in the calculation or awarding of good time credit, defense attorneys take on the responsibility of filing appeals and challenging decisions. They work through the administrative remedy process to address any perceived injustices. Your lawyer can also ensure that you are informed about and have the opportunity to meet educational requirements necessary for earning good time credit.

Your attorney can thoroughly review your prison records, including disciplinary actions and program participation, to ensure accuracy. In certain cases, defense attorneys may pursue post-conviction relief to address issues that could impact good time credit. This could involve filing motions to modify federal sentences or address legal errors that may have occurred during the trial.

Choose a Tenacious Criminal Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Hernandez & Hamilton, PC can help you maximize the likelihood of reduced good time credit or obtain a reduction in sentencing through some other manner within the federal prison system. Our law firm brings decades of experience and a proven track record of success in defending cases involving good time credit reductions. To schedule your free consultation with our legal team, call us at 520-882-8823 or fill out this online contact form.

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