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How Much Good Time Do You Get In Federal Prison?

The federal prison system has a program called “good time credits” that allows inmates to reduce their sentenced confinement time by following prison rules and participating in rehabilitation programs. Good time credits provide incentives for prisoners to demonstrate good behavior while incarcerated.

The amount of good time an inmate can receive depends on the length of their original sentence and the year they were sentenced. Those sentenced for crimes committed prior to 1987 can earn more good time than those sentenced for crimes after 1987, when stricter sentencing laws were passed.

Good time is awarded for good behavior and/or participation in prison programs. An inmate can earn up to 54 days of good time per year off their sentence for exemplary behavior or participation in programs.

How Good Time Reduces a Sentence

Good time credits are deducted from an inmate’s total sentence to determine their release date from prison. For example, an inmate sentenced to 10 years (120 months) in prison and who earns the maximum good time could have over 1 year (14 months) reduced from their sentence.

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The ability to earn good time is a privilege though, not a right. Prison staff routinely evaluate inmate behavior and program participation to determine good time awards. Inmates who commit infractions may have good time taken away as punishment.

Good Time Under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 established mandatory minimum sentences and reduced the amount of good time federal inmates could earn. Two categories of good time were created:

Good Time Under the Sentencing Reform Act

  • Up to 54 days good time credit per year of sentence for following prison rules and participating in programs
  • Cannot exceed 15% of total sentence; only applies to time in prison after November 1987

Extra Good Time for Inmates with 30+ Year Sentences

  • Up to 60 extra days per year in addition to the 54 days
  • Applies to inmates sentenced for crimes between 1982 and 1987
  • Reduces minimum sentence by 20% rather than 15%

The Sentencing Reform Act greatly limited how much sentences could be reduced through good time. However, those with longer pre-1987 sentences can still benefit from extra good time credits.

Factors That Determine Good Time Eligibility

Several factors influence how much good time an inmate is eligible to receive in federal prison:

Length of Sentence

  • Longer sentences prior to 1987 allow inmates to earn more good time.
  • Sentences today under mandatory minimums often limit good time to 15% of the term.

Year Sentence Was Imposed

  • Pre-1987 sentences allow up to extra good time credits.
  • Sentences after 1987 follow stricter good time limits of the Sentencing Reform Act.

Behavior and Program Participation

  • Good time is earned, not automatically given.
  • Inmates must demonstrate good behavior and participate in programs.
  • Failure to follow rules can result in loss of good time.

Type of Crime Committed

  • Some crimes make inmates ineligible to receive good time.
  • These include violent crimes such as murder, kidnapping, etc.
  • Drug crimes with mandatory minimums may limit good time.
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The combination of these factors determine an inmate’s good time eligibility and how much they can reduce their overall sentence.

Losing Good Time for Rules Infractions

As a privilege that must be earned, good time can also be taken away for misconduct and rule violations in prison. Some infractions that can result in loss of good time include:

  • Possession of contraband
  • Refusing work assignments
  • Disobeying orders
  • Assault or fighting
  • Possession of drugs or alcohol
  • Escape attempts

Disciplinary proceedings are held to determine if good time should be revoked. The amount of good time lost depends on the severity of the offense. Smaller infractions may result in a loss of a few weeks or months of good time, while more serious violations can lead to losing all accrued good time.

Loss of good time is a powerful disciplinary tool in federal prisons. Inmates have an incentive to maintain good behavior in order to keep their earned good time and qualify for release as early as possible.

Conclusion: Make the Most out of Good Time Opportunities

The good time system rewards federal inmates who behave well and work hard at their rehabilitation. While sentences today are strict, the opportunity to earn good time still exists.

Inmates should aim to follow all prison rules, avoid trouble, and enroll in programs in order to qualify for the maximum good time allowed. This can shave months or even years off a sentence to allow for an earlier release from prison.

Good time remains an incentive for inmates to improve themselves and cooperate with prison administration. Despite its limits compared to past policies, good time still provides hope for federal prisoners seeking to reduce their sentences through model conduct.

Table of Federal Crimes and Sentences

CrimeDate CommittedSentence ReceivedGood Time EarnedTime Served
Bank Robbery197820 years2.5 years17.5 years
Counterfeiting198315 years1.5 years13.5 years
Wire Fraud198810 years11 months9 years 1 month
Drug Trafficking199225 years3 years22 years
Tax Evasion20015 years6 months4 years 6 months

Quotes on Good Time from Former Federal Inmates

“By staying out of trouble and working my prison job every day, I was able to earn enough good time off my sentence to get out 9 months early.” – Frank D., released 2015

“I went into prison with a ‘do your own time’ attitude until I realized the good time could knock a year off my sentence. I decided it was worth following the rules to get released faster to my family.” – Luis R., released 2019

“Losing 3 months of good time for getting caught with contraband was the wake up call I needed. I realized I had to change my behavior if I wanted to get the full good time credit I was eligible for.” – Michael W., released 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

What is good time in federal prison?

Good time refers to sentence credits federal inmates can earn for good behavior and participating in rehabilitation programs. It can reduce their sentence up to 15%.

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How much good time can federal inmates earn per year?

Inmates serving time for crimes after 1987 can earn up to 47 days good time per year, not exceeding 15% of their total sentence.

Do federal inmates with life sentences get good time?

No, only inmates with definite sentences are eligible for good time credits. Those with life sentences cannot reduce their sentence with good time.

Can an inmate lose good time once it is earned?

Yes, accrued good time can be taken away as punishment for violations of prison rules and misconduct.

Does earned good time apply if an inmate’s conviction is overturned?

No, if a conviction is overturned on appeal, the sentence is nullified. Any good time earned would no longer apply.

Prison Inside Team

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We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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