OLR Bill Analysis
sHB 7133 (as amended by House "A")*
AN ACT CONCERNING GOOD TIME CREDITS.
This bill eliminates the ability of inmates sentenced for crimes committed before October 1, 1994 to earn “good conduct credits” to reduce their sentences (see BACKGROUND). Instead, it allows such inmates who were eligible to earn these credits prior to the bill's passage to earn credits under the state's risk reduction earned credit program, if they are eligible. Under current law, the risk reduction earned credit program applies only to inmates imprisoned for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994.
Consequently, the bill reduces the number of (1) inmates imprisoned for crimes committed before October 1, 1994 who are potentially eligible to earn credits off their sentences (due to the risk reduction program's eligibility criteria, see BACKGROUND) and (2) days per month of credits that they may earn.
The bill allows inmates who have earned good conduct credits prior to the bill's passage to continue to use these credits to reduce their sentences as under current law, except as may be lost for misconduct or refusal to obey rules. The bill specifies that it does not invalidate the release or parole release of any inmate whose sentence was reduced under these provisions before the bill's passage.
*House Amendment “A” adds the provisions extending the risk reduction credit program to inmates committed to Department of Correction (DOC) custody for crimes committed before October 1, 1994.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage
GOOD CONDUCT CREDITS AND RISK REDUCTION EARNED CREDIT PROGRAM
The bill eliminates the ability of inmates sentenced for crimes committed before October 1, 1994 to earn good conduct credits, but opens the risk reduction earned credit program to all eligible inmates, not just those imprisoned for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994.
By shifting inmates sentenced for crimes committed before then from earning good conduct credits to risk reduction credits, the bill reduces the days per month of credits that they may earn. Under the good conduct law, such inmates (starting with those sentenced on and after October 1, 1976) may earn up to 12 days off the sentence for each month of good behavior, or 15 days per month if sentenced for a crime committed before July 1, 1981. Under the risk reduction program, eligible inmates can earn credits of up to five days per month for adhering to offender accountability plans, participating in eligible programs, and for good conduct and obeying institutional rules (but good conduct and obeying rules alone is not enough to earn risk reduction credits).
Under existing law, unchanged by the bill, inmates sentenced for crimes committed before October 1, 1994 may be eligible to reduce their sentences under certain other laws, at the DOC commissioner's discretion. Specifically, such inmates:
1. who work at the prison or a work-release program may have their sentences reduced by one day for each consecutive seven days of employment (CGS § 18-98a) and
2. may have their sentences reduced by up to 120 days for an “outstanding meritorious performance award” (CGS § 18-98b).
Good Conduct Credits for Crimes Committed before October 1, 1994
In 1993, existing laws authorized good conduct credit for inmates. A provision in PA 93-219 provided that anyone convicted of a crime committed on or after October 1, 1994 had to be subject to supervision either by DOC or the Board of Parole until the expiration of the maximum term of the person's sentence (codified as CGS § 18-100d). The state Supreme Court interpreted this language as eliminating the ability of inmates to reduce their sentences under the good conduct statutes for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994 (Velez v. Commissioner of Correction, 250 Conn. 536 (1999)).
Risk Reduction Earned Program – Excluded Crimes
PA 11-51 (§§ 22-25) created the risk reduction earned credit program. The act applied to inmates who were sentenced to prison for a crime committed on or after October 1, 1994 and committed to DOC custody on or after that date.
Under existing law, an inmate convicted of the following crimes cannot earn risk reduction credits: murder, murder with special circumstances, felony murder, arson murder, 1st degree manslaughter, 1st degree manslaughter with a firearm, 1st degree aggravated sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault of a minor, and home invasion. Existing law also bars an inmate from earning credits if he or she is classified as a persistent dangerous felony offender or persistent dangerous sexual offender.
sSB 575 (File 669), as amended and passed by the Senate on June 2, establishes a task force to study the practices and procedures of the risk reduction credit program.
SB 885 (File 709), as amended and passed by the Senate on June 2, adds to the list of crimes that bar inmates from earning risk reduction credits to reduce their sentences (the bill applies to such crimes if committed on or after October 1, 2017).
sHB 5992 (File 655), passed by the House on May 31, requires the DOC commissioner to report to the Judiciary Committee on his recommendations on specified matters to improve the risk reduction earned credit program.