Clients often ask me, “if I’m sentenced to x amount of years, how much time do I actually have to serve locked up.” That is an excellent question because the real-time spent behind bars is more critical to consider than the sentence.
Louisiana’s method of calculating good time and an early release is complicated. The actual amount of time a person serves his sentence depends on a variety of factors.
Most people think that calculating the time a person has to serve is simple, but it’s not. In some cases, people spend time incarcerated beyond their release date due to the Department of Corrections’ failure to understand its own guidelines.
Reducing the amount of time served incarcerated.
Year after year, Louisiana ranks at the top per capita incarcerations. To try and reverse this trend, Louisiana lawmakers passed criminal justice reform to reduce the prison population. Act 281/S.B. 220, 2017 Regular Session.Act 280/S.B. 139, 2017 Regular Session Act 282/S.B. 221, 2017 Regular Session
How to Calculate Good Time
Along with reducing the length of sentences and easing eligibility for drug court, the Legislature changed the calculations of “good time” credit for prisoners.
Under the new law, inmates earn “good time” credits easier, which reduces their time spent incarcerated. The new law significantly increases the “good time” rate for non-violent charges.
Under the most recent legislation, an inmate gets credited 13 days for every seven days they serve incarcerated; this reduces their annual sentence by 130 days. Inmates who are eligible and enroll in drug, educational, or work programs will reduce their sentences even more.
Loyolalawteck provides a “good time” calculator that is helpful and simple to use. The tool is designed to provide general information about a sentence but is not a substitute for legal advice. The Louisiana Department of Corrections is the final arbitrator of a person’s sentence.
Eligibility for parole
The new law also establishes that non-violent and non-sex offense crimes are eligible for parole after serving 25 percent of their original sentence. First-time violent offenders are eligible for parole after serving 65 percent of their sentences.
When Will I Get Released?
Louisiana’s system for calculating inmates’ release dates has created a lot of confusion. It is not uncommon for different Louisiana Department of Corrections employees to determine varying release dates for the same inmates.
It should be unacceptable to the citizens that Louisiana doesn’t have a central computer program to calculate an inmate’s release date. The State has figured out how to calculate and collect residents’ taxes, which is a much more complicated endeavor.
Are people imprisoned past their release date?
Even if all agree on your release date, it doesn’t guarantee you will walk free on that day. It is not uncommon for people to be kept imprisoned well beyond their release date.
A person can be held past their release date for several reasons, but the two most common are:
- Failure of communication between the Parish and the Department of Corrections.
- Human mistakes when calculating “good time.”
Throughout the State, hundreds of persons are held beyond their release date. Some of these individuals are kept incarcerated for years past the dates they were eligible for release.
The Department of Corrections employees has acknowledged the failure of the system. During a lawsuit, one employee testified that prison staff discovered approximately one case of over-detention per week for the previous nine years.
Calculating your release date is not easy, and the system is broken. These are problems that should be addressed immediately. It should outrage any citizen when a person is confined beyond his sentence.
There is a lack of accountability for over-detaining people. Some inmates that are over-detained file a lawsuit; however, these lawsuits are difficult to win. It’s easy for the Department of Corrections to recalculate inmates’ “good-time” and consider other factors to adjust the actual release date to coincide with a new day.
If you’re charged with a crime or need our assistance in any legal matter, contact our office to speak with an experienced attorney. We have offices in Hammond and Livingston, Louisiana. Call our offices at (225) 686-8006 or visit our website and email us.