Unlike the myth that you only get one phone call from jail, getting out of jail early for good behavior is a very real thing. Time off for good behavior, known officially as “good time credit,” rewards inmates for good behavior by reducing their sentences.
State and federal inmates are both eligible to have their sentences reduced for good behavior. However, each state has different laws regarding how much time can be earned and who is eligible based on the types of crimes committed.
What Qualifies As Good Behavior?
Inmates who display “exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations” are rewarded with a sentence reduction. In other words, inmates who have not committed any crimes or had any discipline issues while incarcerated.
Inmates can also earn good behavior credit for completing certain types of programs while in jail or prison. For example:
- Anger management programs
- Substance abuse programs
- Approved leisure time activity groups
Additionally, completing a GED program or other high school equivalency degree will earn an inmate additional time off. Completing any higher education degree is rewarded with an even larger good behavior credit.
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How Much Time Can Be Earned?
Inmates serving a federal prison sentence longer than one year will receive 54 days off their sentences every year.
In California, the amount of time awarded for good behavior is quite complicated. Proposition 57, passed in 2016, was an effort to incentivize inmates to take responsibility for their own rehabilitation.
The new laws have introduced an expanded range of ways to receive good time credit, but figuring them out often requires the assistance of an attorney to comprehend fully.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Yes, there are some exceptions to who can earn time off for good behavior, as well as the total amount that can be earned.
Only inmates that are serving sentences longer than one year are eligible for good time credit. Inmates who have been sentenced to life in prison or who have been sentenced to death do not qualify for early release from prison.
Finally, the maximum amount of good time credit that can be earned is thirty percent of the total sentence.