Meritorious good time prison credits restored in extremely limited manner – no longer automatic


For the detailed Administrative Rules as of February 2013 click here: http://cookcountyjail.wordpress.com/mgt-idoc-meritorious-good-time-credit-rules-as-of-february-2013/

The following refers to good time credits in prison, not in jail.  Two years ago automatic meritorious good time credits of 180 day reduction in sentences was eliminated due to publicity when a couple of violent parolees were released early and then committed some nasty crimes.  No matter that sentences in Illinois are already excessive or that there is almost no rehabilitative programming available in prison, nor is there adequate mental health treatment or drug treatment programs. The public is not told about these problems and that convicts are sent back out in society, often with less skills and opportunities than when they went in and with no follow-up for mental health care or drug addiction or alcohol addiction.

Today, Gov. Quinn signed Senate Bill  2621, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), which passed both houses with bi-partisan support. The law allows the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to award sentence credit to non-violent offenders who have shown willingness to correct their behavior through successful completion of rehabilitation programs, which are offered in a VERY limited fashion.

Sentencing credit has existed in Illinois law since 1978 and previously were used as Meritorious Good Time Credit and Extra Meritorious Good Time Credit to reduce most sentences by 180 (two periods of 90 days each), although they were never meant to be used like that.  This was done to decrease overcrowding decades ago and became a habit of the IDOC.

Under the new law, inmates would only be eligible to receive sentence credit after serving at least 60 days in IDOC custody. Inmates who display appropriate, positive behavior will be reviewed and evaluated by IDOC to determine whether they are eligible to receive credit.

Under the new law, the IDOC will consider and evaluate an inmate’s prior offenses, the circumstances of the inmate’s current holding offense, as well as the offender’s potential for rehabilitation prior to the decision to award sentencing credit.

The IDOC will also have the right to revoke credit if an inmate demonstrates negative or violent behavior. As a result of the Governor’s 2009 Crime Reduction Act, there will also be a risk assessment tool in place this year to ensure that sentences are administered according to individual evaluation of the inmate.

In order to qualify for meritorious good time sentencing credit, inmates will be required to successfully complete rehabilitation treatments, which could include substance abuse treatment, adult education, and behavior modification or life skills programs. Inmates may also receive sentence credit for passing the Test of General Educational Development (GED) while in IDOC custody.

As the options for participating in programs are limited and educational programs beyond GED, dog training, limited computer training, and cosmetology are nonexistent (very little  opportunity for college level education or trade school education at all), the bottom line, is that if you are not addicted, do not need a high school degree, do not need anger management training or parenting training, then you  probably won’t have an opportunity to get extra time off your sentence.  Right now the programs are limited in number and certainly won’t allow the numbers of inmates that will request them. 

THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT EXTRA TIME OFF YOUR SENTENCE IS ALMOST NON-EXISTENT NOW AND IN THE FORSEEABLE FUTURE, ESPECIALLY FOR SHORT TIMERS – THE MAJORITY OF THE INMATES – AS YOU WON’T BE THERE LONG ENOUGH TO QUALIFY FOR THE PROGRAMS OR TO GET INTO THEM.

No matter if the convict has already served his entire sentence at a jail, he will still have to serve at least 60 days at the IDOC, before release on parole.

THIS IS  PARTICULARLY DISCRIMINATORY FOR PEOPLE WITH NON-VIOLENT CRIMES AND SHORT SENTENCES.

Sentences are calculated by taking the sentencing day, counting back the number of days given credit for custody in a jail and using that date as the IDOC intake date.  Then if the crime is nonviolent or of minor violence and eligible for day for day good time credit, the release date is calculated by counting half the sentence. If the crime was violent and not eligible for day for day credit and only eligible for 15% of sentence reduced, then essentially the convict will get 4 and 1/2  days off for every month of good behavior.  For murder, there are no days off for anything.

This is essentially a publicity stunt that will appease the public, but have almost no effect on the majority of inmate’s sentences, unless funding is increased greatly to the IDOC to increase training and self-improvement  programming, or unless the IDOC reverses a decades old policy of no longer allowing inmates to obtain higher education, grow their own food in gardens, or do anything that is really productive and useful outside of a prison to  improve themselves, other than get a GED, learn cosmetology and dog training,  or  put together some basic furniture.