Truth in Sentencing: Ways to Reduce Prison Sentences

When an individual has been either convicted of a crime or pleads guilty to a crime and receives a sentence of prison time, the sentence imposed does not necessarily mean that the individual will do the entirety of the imposed sentence. When someone is sentenced to a term of imprisonment, that individual may have options and opportunities to have their sentence reduced while in IDOC (Illinois Department of Corrections).

There are three typical methods than an individual can receive sentencing credit to ultimately have their sentences reduced while serving time in IDOC. The three ways inmates can receive additional sentencing credit at IDOC is through statutory sentencing credit, program sentence credit and supplemental sentence credit.  The opportunities for credit are as follows:

Statutory Sentencing Credit: Statutory sentencing credit is credit that is awarded for most types of offenses pursuant to Illinois sentencing Statute.  For example, some felony offenses offer day for day credit which basically means a person will serve only 50% of their sentence if they do not have any behavioral or disciplinary issues while incarcerated in IDOC.  Other sentences require an individual to serve 75%, 85% or even 100% of their sentence based on good behavior.

Program Sentencing Credit: Program sentencing credit is credit an individual can accrue while serving time in IDOC.  Specifically, an individual can obtain additional credit towards their sentence by participating in classes and programs offered by IDOC.  These classes can range from cooking classes, GED classes to trade classes.  There are also eligibility requirements to qualify for receiving additional sentencing credit from these classes which are classified into three levels:

  • Certain offenders are eligible to have 0.5 days of credit per day of classes taken (Ex. 30 days of class =15 days of sentencing credit).
  • Other offenders can be eligible for 0.25 days of credit if they don’t meet the requirements of the 0.5 days of credit (Ex. 28 days of class = 7 days of sentencing credit).
  • Then certain offenders are ineligible to receive credit for participating in classes but are usually not prohibited from taking the classes.

Eligibility criteria is usually based upon the individual’s disciplinary history and the nature of the offense for which they were either convicted of or plead guilty to. If the individual has a history of disciplinary issues, then they may be disqualified from receiving sentencing credit.  If an individual has been convicted of a specific offense, for example first degree murder, then they would not be eligible for any program credit.

Supplemental Sentence Credit: Supplemental Sentence Credit is sentencing credit that an individual could receive at the end of their sentence.  This credit is not mandatory and it is at the discretion of IDOC to award this credit to an offender.  An individual could be eligible for either 90 days or 180 days off their sentence.  The amount of days awarded are based upon the nature of the offense the individual is serving time for.  For example, a sentence for Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault only allows an individual a possible 90 days credit at the end of their sentence due to the nature of the offense.  While most offenses are eligible for the supplemental sentence credit, certain offenses may not be eligible such as convictions for first degree murder and domestic terrorism.  An offender must have at least served a minimum time of 60 days or as close to 60 days the sentence would allow to be eligible for the credit.

When an individual is imprisoned in IDOC, they should make every attempt to utilize all the opportunities available to reduce their prison sentence. This also gives the individual not only the opportunity for an early release to get back to their loved ones sooner, but it also allows the opportunity for an individual to better themselves in prison.  It gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and trades that could be beneficial when re-entering society after release.  After the individual is assigned to a prison in IDOC, they should immediately consult with their assigned counselor to determine their eligibility and opportunities for additional sentencing credit.

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The National Trial Lawyers
10.0Raymond George Wigell
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