“Good Time Credit” for Federal Prisoners

The Problem:  Federal prisoners currently can earn up to only 47 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 rehabilitation.

Solutions:

  1. Increase the annual good time credit all federal prisoners can earn from 47 to 54 days, as the good time statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), requires
  2. Provide other opportunities for all federal prisoners to earn additional time off their sentence (e.g., for completing rehabilitative programming)

Pending Bills:

S. 1675:  Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act of 2013

Bill text: To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Bill progress: To track the progress of this bill, click here.

Summary: This bill, if passed, would 

  1. Requires the Attorney General to develop a risk assessment tool to assess the likelihood that a federal prisoner will reoffend and to determine which programming that prisoner needs to lower his likelihood of reoffending.
  2. Requires the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to apply the risk assessment tool to all federal prisoners within 6 years of the date the bill becomes a law.
  3. Requires the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services to collect recidivism data and report it to Congress.
  4. Requires the Attorney General and the courts to set up demonstration projects around the country that prepare federal offenders for and assist them with reentry.
  5. Changes the good time credit statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), so that prisoners can earn the full 54 days of good time credit for each year of their sentence imposed, rather than only 47 days per year because of the way the Bureau of Prisons currently calculates good time credit. This provision would be retroactive, meaning that prisoners would receive an additional 7 days of good time credit for each year they have already served, assuming they complied with prison rules during that time.
  6. Allows federal prisoners to earn up to an additional 60 days off their sentences for each year they successfully participate in evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or recovery programming (which includes a prison job, drug treatment, vocational training, and educational or cognitive behavioral programs).
    • The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has sole discretion to decide whether and how much credit a prisoner has earned
    • The number of days earned is prorated if the programming lasts less than one year
    • There is a cap on how many credits can be earned:  a prisoner cannot earn more than 15 percent of his total sentence imposed in credits for recidivism reduction programming and for completing the residential drug abuse program (RDAP).
    • This means that the maximum amount of earned credits, good time credits, and RDAP credit a federal prisoner could earn would be up to 30 percent of the total sentence imposed.

THE BILL IS NOT A LAW. We do not know if or when the bill will become a law. Before it can become a law, the bill must be passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President. This could take a long time, or it may never happen. Each year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very, very few become laws. 

Resources:

Bill Summary: S. 1675, Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act

FAQ: Federal good time credit


H.R. 2656, The Public Safety Enhancement Act of 2013

Bill text: To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Bill progress: To track the progress of this bill, click here.

Summary: The bill, if passed, could allow some federal prisoners to earn credits if they complete certain rehabilitative programs. The credits could enable some prisoners who are considered by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to be at low risk of recidivism to be released from prison and to serve the remainder of their sentences in a halfway house or in home confinement. The credits would be different than and in addition to any good time credit federal prisoners can already receive. 

THE BILL IS NOT A LAW. We do not know if or when the bill will become a law. Before it can become a law, the bill must be passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President. This could take a long time, or it may never happen. Each year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very, very few become laws. 

Resources:

FAQ: H.R. 2656, the Public Safety Enhancement Act (PSEA)

FAQ: Federal good time credit

FAQ: Federal halfway houses and home confinement


H.R. 2371:  Prisoner Incentive Act of 2013

Bill text: To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Bill progress: To track the progress of this bill, click here.

Summary: This bill, if passed, would change the good time credit statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), so that prisoners can earn the full 54 days of good time credit for each year of their sentence imposed, rather than only 47 days per year because of the way the Bureau of Prisons currently calculates good time credit. The bill, if passed, would be retroactive, meaning that federal prisoners could receive the additional 7 days of credit for each previous year of their incarceration if they were well-behaved.

THE BILL IS NOT A LAW. We do not know if or when the bill will become a law. Before it can become a law, the bill must be passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President. This could take a long time, or it may never happen. Each year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very, very few become laws. 

Resources:

FAQ: Federal good time credit


H.R. 62: The Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2013

Bill text: To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Bill progress: To track the progress of this bill, click here.

Summary: This bill, if passed, would require the Bureau of Prisons to change its good time credit policy to require that prisoners be released if they (1) have served one half or more of their sentences, (2) are age 45 or older, (3) have never been convicted of a crime of violence, and (4) have not engaged in any violation of Bureau of Prisons disciplinary regulations that involved violent conduct.  FAMM supports increasing the amount of good time credit federal prisoners can earn.

THE BILL IS NOT A LAW. We do not know if or when the bill will become a law. Before it can become a law, the bill must be passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President. This could take a long time, or it may never happen. Each year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very, very few become laws. 

Resources:

FAQ: Federal good time credit