“Good Time Credit” for Federal Prisoners

The Problem: Federal prisoners currently can earn up to only 54 days off of their sentences each year if they follow prison rules and are well-behaved. This “good time credit” encourages and rewards rehabilitation and discourages rule-breaking in prisons. It also shortens sentences and saves taxpayers money.  FAMM supports evidence-based, cost-effective reforms that allow prisoners to earn more good time credit for greater sentence reductions. This reform is especially important because earning good time credit is currently one of the only ways a federal prisoner can shorten his or her sentence – federal parole was abolished in 1984. More good time credit would save taxpayers money and enhance public safety by encouraging prisoner rehabilitation. Unfortunately, because of a mistake in the way the good time statute (18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)) was written, prisoners actually earn only 47 of the 54 days of good time credit for which the law says they are eligible. Only Congress can fix this small technical error, and allowing well-behaved federal prisoners to receive all 54 days of good time credit annually would save millions of dollars in prison costs. 

Solutions:

  1. Fix 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) so that prisoners can earn all of the annual good time credit that the law permits
  2. Provide other opportunities for all federal prisoners to earn additional time off their sentences (e.g., for completing rehabilitative programming).

In the 113th Congress, several bills were introduced that would, if passed, allow federal prisoners to earn the full 54 days of good time credits. None of these bills became law, but FAMM supports these reform efforts and hopes that they will be reintroduced and passed in Congress in the future. Another bill introduced in the 113th Congress would have allowed certain prisoners with a low risk of re-offending to earn more time in halfway houses or on home confinement (rather than staying in prison) if they completed rehabilitative programs. That bill also did not become a law.

While FAMM supports increases to good time credits and earned time credits, we firmly believe that these reforms are not sufficient to reduce federal prison populations and costs or to repair the injustices created by one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentences. 


Pending Bills in the 114th Congress:

There have been several bills introduced in the 114th Congress that would increase good time or earned time credit:

Prisoner Incentive Act (H.R. 1252) (Scott): Introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott, this bill, if passed, would fix the technical error in 18 U.S.C. section 3624 so that prisoners can earn a full 54 days of good time credit each year if they obey prison rules and are well-behaved. FAMM supports this bill. This bill is not a law. We do not know if or when they will become law. To become a law, a bill must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. Every year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very few become law. 

CORRECTIONS Act (S. 467) (Cornyn/Whitehouse): Introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), this bill, if passed, would require the federal Bureau of Prisons to classify federal prisoners as being at high, medium, or low risk of reoffending and permit some offenders to earn time credits that could be used so that the person spends more time in a halfway house, on home confinement, or under community supervision at the end of their sentences. This bill is not a law. We do not know if or when they will become law. To become a law, a bill must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. Every year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very few become law. 

Recidivism Risk Reduction Act (H.R. 759) (Chaffetz/Gowdy/Richmond/Jeffries): Introduced by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), this bill, if passed, would require the federal Bureau of Prisons to classify federal prisoners as being at high, medium, or low risk of reoffending and permit some offenders to earn time credits that could be used so that the person spends more time in a halfway house, on home confinement, or under community supervision at the end of their sentences. This bill is not a law. We do not know if or when they will become law. To become a law, a bill must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. Every year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very few become law. 

Keep checking back here for updates as bills progress through the legislative process and as more bills are introduced.

Resources:

FAQ: Federal good time credit

FAQ: Federal halfway houses and home confinement