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All About Good Conduct Time

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

All About Good Conduct Time

Good conduct time or good time credit is an opportunity for inmates to shorten their time behind bars. The inmate earns a certain number of days of good conduct time for every 30 calendar days of time served when they participate in specific programs. 

Good conduct time is a privilege, not a right. As such, it can be given as an incentive for good behavior and taken away as a form of punishment. 

To be clear, good conduct time is not the same as state jail diligent participation credit, although it’s similar. Below, we discuss the ins and outs of good conduct time, how it compares to state jail participation, and how good conduct time credit affects the inmate’s parole eligibility.

An Overview of Good Conduct Time

Also called “good time” by those inside, good conduct time can help shorten an inmate’s time in prison. Inmates earn days of credit according to the programs they participate in and the inmate’s general behavior while incarcerated. 

Good conduct time considers an inmate’s classification status and their choice to actively participate in work, educational, and vocational programs offered in their unit. Typically, each unit has a set of available programs, which may not match other units. 

Good conduct time helps determine an inmate’s first parole eligibility date and a mandatory release date.

The first parole review is given when the inmate’s actual calendar time plus their good time credits equal a quarter of the sentence. The mandatory release date is set by the actual calendar time plus good conduct credit equals the complete sentence. Remember that you can serve the penalty in prison and on parole. Any opportunity to get in front of the parole board as early in the sentence as possible increases the chances of being paroled to serve the remaining sentence on the outside.

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Good Conduct Time vs. State Jail Participation Credit

If an inmate serves a sentence for a state jail felony, they do not earn good conduct time credit for time served in a state jail facility. However, some state jail offenders may receive diligent participation credit by the sentencing judge if the felony was committed on or after September 1, 2011. 

Diligent participation means active participation in an educational, work, and/or treatment program. The inmate earns credit by successful completion of the program or progressing toward the successful completion of a qualifying program that was interrupted by illness, injury, or other circumstances outside the inmate’s control. Active involvement in a work program also counts as diligent participation. 

State jail inmates cannot earn diligent participation credit if they refuse to work, refuse to attend or participate in required treatment programs, or refuse to attend a school or complete school assignments. 

Who Can Receive Good Conduct Time Credit?

Only inmates serving prison sentences for first-, second-, or third-degree felonies may earn good conduct time credit. The credit only applies to parole eligibility or mandatory supervision. It doesn’t shorten the sentence of the terms of confinement.

For example, if an inmate convicted of a second-degree felony is sentenced to 10 years in prison, the inmate serves the full ten years combined between prison incarceration and time out on parole, otherwise known as mandatory supervision.

The inmate must be actively engaged in an accredited program for any of the following:

  • Agriculture 
  • Vocational training
  • Educational study
  • Treatment programs

If the inmate is not capable of program participation due to physical or mental limitations, they can still earn good time credit in other ways.

Accruing Good Conduct Time

Inmates accrue good conduct time based on their classification. Every inmate starts with the time-accruing classification of Line Class I. From there, they can work into a higher time-accruing status called State Approved Trustee (SAT). However, the inmate may be demoted to a lower Line Class if they earn less conduct time credit or none at all.

Each inmate must wait six months to become eligible for promotion to a time-earning status. If the inmate has no major disciplinary problems during that time, they can qualify as making satisfactory progress, earning them a promotion.

Line Class Status ranges from Line Class III (low) to Line Class I (high). A State Approved Trusty can have a promotional status of SAT IV (low) to SAT II (high). 

Earning levels are set as follows:

  • A State Approved Trustee earns up to 30 days of good conduct time credit for every 30 days served. They receive at least 20 days for every 30 served and can be awarded up to 10 additional days for every 30 days served.
  • Line Class I earns 20 days for every 30 days served.
  • Line Class II earns 10 days for every 30 days served.
  • Line Class III earns no good conduct time during the period of this classification.

To reiterate, every inmate enters into prison as Line Class I. With participation in programs and good behavior, they are eligible to be promoted to State-Approved Trustee in six months. Poor behavior or participation can result in demotion to a lower Line Class with fewer earned credit days or none. Any inmate demoted to a lower level must wait six months to become eligible for a promotion to a higher level.

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Program Participation

If a state prison inmate applies themselves in a work, industrial, agricultural, educational, or vocational program, they can earn up to 15 days of good time credit per 30 days actually served. The inmate can participate as a tutor or pupil in a literacy program, which qualifies as an educational program. Each inmate must participate in good faith and with diligence.

Inmates confined to county jail are only eligible for state jail diligent participation credit. They can earn up to 10 days of good time credit for every 30 days served, just like the State Prison’s Line Class I. If the inmate diligently participates in a sheriff’s voluntary work program, they can accrue up to 15 days per 30 days served.

Talk to Your Attorney

If you aren’t sure you are eligible for good conduct time credit, speak with your attorney. An experienced parole lawyer can help you determine what programs are available for your unit and what you need to do to earn credit. A lawyer can also help in cases where an inmate cannot participate or complete a program by determining how you can earn good time credit in those situations. 

Give the Office of Greg Tsioros a call if you or a loved one is serving time in prison for a first-, second-, or third-degree felony to learn if you are eligible for good conduct time credit. If you are, then you have the chance to become eligible for an early parole review and may be released on mandatory supervision to complete your sentence.

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