Both sides of the aisle have rightfully come together on criminal justice reform, including passing the First Step Act. The New York Times said this signature legislation addressing unfairness in the criminal justice system involved some of “the most significant changes to the criminal justice system in a generation.” Both sides also agree, however, that a lot still needs to be done to address a system that incarcerates more people than Russia and China.
The current federal system awards good time credit — 15 percent — for all prisoners who behave. That means for every year done in prison, you receive 54 days off in good time credit.
For a long time, the Bureau of Prisons only gave 47 days of credit, but the First Step Act told BOP that 15 percent was really 15 percent and prisoners should get the full 54 days. Even with this directive, BOP has refused to give this credit, saying that there is an error in the statute, and has asked for Congress to reiterate that it really wants the 54 days of credit applied. This is completely absurd, and both parties agree that this should be fixed immediately. In addition to fixing the 54-day issue, there is one additional modest (and hopefully non-controversial) proposal that should be included.
As it stands, federal prisoners only receive good time credit if they are sentenced to more than a year of prison. That means that if you are sentenced to a year and a day, you will receive 15 percent off with good time and serve about 10 months; however, if you receive a sentence of exactly one year in prison, no such good time credit will be applied, and you will serve that year day for day. That means that the prisoner who receives a longer sentence of a year and a day will serve less time than someone who is sentenced to a year or 11 months. It makes no sense.
Saturday, February 23, 2019
"A small next step for criminal justice reform: Fix good time credit"
That's the title of my piece this week in The Hill. Please click through and let me know your thoughts. Here's the intro: