HD50 - Good Conduct Allowances for Prisoners in Local Correctional Facilities

  • Published: 1993
  • Author: Virginia State Crime Commission
  • Enabling Authority: House Joint Resolution 14 (Regular Session, 1992)

Executive Summary:
The study of good conduct allowances, authorized by House Joint Resolution 14 (1992), sponsored by Delegate Harry J. Parrish, sought to determine and correct the disparities in treatment of parole eligible and parole ineligible inmates held in local jails. The major issues discussed were:

A. Whether good conduct computations for parole eligible inmates should be conducted in-house by the jailers responsible for those inmates rather than be conducted (as they are now) by the Department of Corrections.

This issue arose because of the delays frequently encountered by local jails in the return from the Department of Corrections (DOC) of release dates computed by DOC for the jail inmates. The recommended good conduct classification is made by the jailer with respect to all of his inmates. In the case of local inmates, he is able to instantly implement his recommended good time allowance. In the case of state responsible inmates, he must send the recommended classification to DOC and await the calculation and return to the jail of a prospective inmate release date. This process can take six to eight weeks or more, sometimes resulting in the return of a calculated release date which has already passed (e.g., the inmate should have been released on June 1 according to the calculation but the jailer receives the calculation on June 15.)

B. Whether the disparity in time served by similarly sentenced felons (or parole eligible inmates) and misdemeanants (locally responsible - with twelve months or less to serve) should be reduced by increasing the "good time allowance" for locally responsible inmates to two days for each day served instead of one day served.

This issue arose because a misdemeanant sentenced to twelve months in jail will typically serve six months (with good time allowances). A felon sentenced to a year, however, will (with good time and parole allowances) typically serve approximately only 90 days. An increase in good time for a "local" inmate from one to two days for each day served would almost eliminate the disparity.

C. Whether the disparity in initial good time earned by jail-sentenced felons (15 days for 30 served) and prison-sentenced felons (20 days for 30 served) should be removed.

This issue responds to a five-day good time allowance disparity that is based on the possibility that the jail-sentenced inmate could receive an additional 5 days good time for "performance of institutional work assignments." If such assignments are not available (as would often be the case in an overcrowded institution) such an inmate would be limited to 15 days for 30 served even though his conduct is exemplary. A prison-sentenced inmate initially receives 20 days for 30 served - unless and until his behavior suggests a different classification.

The subcommittee considered each of the major issues carefully and, responding to testimony from the patron, interested jailers, DOC and other interested parties, recommended that the process of calculating release dates for parole eligible inmates housed in local facilities should remain with DOC. To transfer the responsibility to the local facilities would tax those facilities beyond their capabilities. In the meantime, the. subcommittee requested that the DOC periodically report to the Crime Commission on the status of their ongoing efforts to improve the response time for release date calculations.

On the issues of increasing "good time" rates for prisoners held in local facilities, the subcommittee recommended that both of the rates should be increased. The subcommittee ultimately concurred with the recommendation of the Commission on Prison and Jail Overcrowding (COPJO) that misdemeanants (parole ineligible inmates) should receive two days of good time for each one served. (See, Appendix B for COPJO report excerpts.) The subcommittee also recommended that, given the disparate application of the five days' "extraordinary good time" for locally held parole eligible inmates, their initial good time rate should be increased from 15 to 20 days for each 30 served (equivalent to their counterparts in prison).

Upon review of the subcommittee recommendations, the full Commission voted a.) to remove the disparity between the jail terms served by parole ineligible inmates and similarly classified parole-eligible inmates, b.) to remove the discrepancy in initial good time allowance given to jail-sentenced parole eligible inmates and prison-sentenced inmates, and c.) to request that the Department of Corrections periodically report to the Crime Commission the status of any review of, or improvement to, the good conduct allowance computations, specifically with reference to computations performed for jail-sentenced inmates.