Currently, federal prisoners currently can earn up to 54 days of Good Conduct Time a year by being model inmates if they follow prison rules and are well-behaved inmates. This 54-days of “good time credit” each year encourages and serves as an incentive to the inmate to take rehabilitation programs and to not break prison rules, get “shots” and not end up in the SHU. It will shorten the time an inmate spends in prison and it also saves money for taxpayers. Prison is expensive and taxpayers pay up to $25,000 to $30,000 per year per inmate. Federal Good Time Reform is a cost-effective method that allow prisoners to earn good time credit to reduce their time of incarceration and saves the taxpayers money, lots of money! There are only four programs the Bureau of Prison offers to reduce the time on incarceration of a federal inmate and many inmates do not qualify for any of them. Good Time Credit is the only option they have to reduce their time in prison! Remember, federal parole was abolished in 1984. More good time credit would save a lot of money for taxpayers and increase public safety by encouraging prisoner rehabilitation. The bad news is this, due to 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. Inmates call this the “BOP Funny Math!” Congress can fix this small technical error, but they have not. Several bills directed at fixing this error have been introduced before and again in the 113th Congress but all have failed. I honestly do not know why. It is the right thing to do, the proper thing to do, and the honest thing to do since this is what Congress intended in the first place.
Now is the time for Congress to provide other opportunities for all federal prisoners to earn additional time off their sentences. More than the 54 days per year they are entitled to and more than the 47 days they actually get each year. Inmates can do this by completing various rehabilitative programs offered by the BOP. (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, not the 47 days they currently get. None of these bills became law.
HR1252, called the Prisoner Incentive Act, was introduced by Representative Bobby Scott and 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. I believe this is a good first step, but not nearly enough to reduce federal prison populations and costs. It also does not correct the inequalities caused by minimum mandatory sentencing and all the other ridiculous sentencing mandates created by Congress that fits inmates into a one-size-fits-all category and does not allow for individual defendant specifications.
Other bills such as the Corrections Act (S. 467) and the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act (H.R. 759) were also introduced into the 114th Congress. We hope these have a better outcome than the thousands of bill introduced in Congress each year which only very few actually become laws. We need these laws to save the taxpayers millions of dollars and allow inmates to take rehabilitative programs as an incentive to reduce their time in prison.