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:

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.


Anonymous said...

Real world challenge:

if this actualy worked, Jose Padilla, the 1st American charged for joining AlQuaeda would be walking out of ADX Florence real soon.

Instead, he apparently got no credit for incarceration prior to Trial and the BOP isn't assigning any good time credit for the 21 years sentenced to serve afterwards either!

Where's Judge Cook? Did she give up fighting the 11th over this case?

Anonymous said...

First, Mr. Padilla was not charged with joining Al Qaeda. He was charged with providing material support to help stop the atrocities being committed by the Russians in Chechnya.

Second, Judge Cooke, through section 3553(a), did fashion a sentence that credited Mr. Padilla with the time he spent in custody as an enemy combatant.

Third, I'm not sure how Judge Cooke can fight the 11th Circuit when no case is pending.

Anonymous said...

The 11th found sufficient evidence for a jury to find he trained with al qaeda. Not too familiar with this case disagree?

Anonymous said...

8:48 - I probably know just as much about the case as you do. But I guess I'm a more careful reader.

9:32 pm had written that Mr. Padilla was charged with "joining" Al Qaeda. He was not not charged with that as far as I know. And yes I believe there was circumstantial evidence that Mr. Padilla "trained" at a camp. The training, however, was to fight Russians who were committing unspeakable atrocities against Muslims in Chechnya.