Sunday, February 28, 2010

#73 Prison time 33 to 50 months

Doing 33 to 50 months prison time.

This blog is based on a few things, one, somebody has been asking this and I wanted to take a shot at it, to help this person out. Second, after the blog I wrote last night about some idiot criticizing my post, I got 2 very nice comments from people reminding me that for every group of people I try to help, there will ALWAYS be a jerk that has nothing better to do than spit on it…even those who call themselves “prison support” or “Christians”.

They both encouraged me to keep doing exactly what I am doing, because for what it is worth, it does help somebody. So with that encouragement, I can continue to write in full confidence.

Before I continue, check out the short story I wrote awhile back, titled “Where does hope lie for the condemned”…or was it “Where does hope lie for ex felons?” I write so much I often forget my titles.

Now, today’s blog is based on an example that many people are confused about… doing prison time. Years ago, when the judge said “10 years” that is how much you got. But then there was added the idea that an inmate can actually earn time and get out a little sooner by “good behavior”. Nowdays, in many prisons, there is a structured sentence, involving a minimum and maximum time frame.

This is very confusing to a lot of people, so I want to use the example to help you understand how this works. Now, before I continue, let me emphasize that I am going off my experiences in NC prisons, so it could differ in your loved one’s case.

And for the sake of argument, let’s agree that I am given my sentence on January 1st, 2010. I know that this isn’t possible because it is a holiday, but I want to use the first day of the year to help chart out the example. It makes it easier if I do it that way.

Ok, now, let’s suppose that I got a sentence of 33 to 50 months on January 1st. How much time will I really do?

First off, understand that we are talking about 2 ½ years to 4 years and some change. But we have to look at this in months, rather than years. The moment the judge gives me the sentence, my incarceration begins. Now, there are cases of jail credit, which I will add on here, just to make the example, that will come later.

The sentence of 33 to 50 months means that the MINIMUM I can be in prison is 33 months, and the MAXIMUM I can be in prison is 50 months. On the charge I got, I cannot be held in that prison longer than 50 months, and I cannot come out any sooner than 33 months. That is my range of incarceration but there are exceptions.

The moment you get your sentence, you are there for the maximum time. That means when you go to prison, the release date is based on you being there the maximum period of time…in this case, 50 months. So, if I got my sentence on January 1st, then I would be looking at a release date of about March 1st, 2014 (give or take a day or two).

Some people think that an inmate can get out in 33 months, that is partly true. But this is NOT automatic! Lots of people see the low end, and immediately think that their loved one can get out in 33 months, and don’t have to be there for the entire 50 months. This is not totally true. The inmate has to EARN that time, on what we call “good behavior”, but is actually based on “gain time” and “merit time”.

See, inmates don’t get time shaved off the maximum just by being nice…they have to do constructive things to show that they are trying to improve their character, things that are recognized by the prison system, and can thus get time credited against their maximum release date. The difference between the 33 months minimum and 50 months maximum is 17 months…that is the amount of time the inmate, me in this example, can earn, or shave off.

So, how is this done?

Keeping in mind that I am using myself as an example, if I started my prison sentence on January 1st 2010, then the 33 to 50 months means at the very worst, I should get out by March 1st, 2014. But the key now is to find ways to earn time off, and in the prison system there are numerous ways to do that.

Most prison jobs give what is called “gain time” for the time worked. That means if you work a prison job for a month, you will be given days off your sentence. The amount of days differs from one job to the next…I’ll explain in a minute.

Another way to get time off is by going to certain classes. These include getting a GED, going to AA, or DART, or other programs. Even going to some HRD (Human Resource Development) classes can earn you gain time or even merit time.

“What’s the difference?”

Both come off your maximum sentence, but merit time is more valuable, in that once awarded, it cannot be taken away. See, even if you earn gain time, it is possible you can lose some of it by inactivity in prison, or breaking the rules. Most jobs and programs give gain time, some give merit, but those are rare.

Are you following me so far?

So, lets continue with my example. I am starting my sentence, and have a 33 to 50 month period. What I need is something to cut down on that maximum, so I can get out sooner than March 1st, 2014.

Let’s say I don’t have a GED (although I have a college degree). But for sake of argument, let’s say I didn’t graduate from high school. Most prisons have a GED program, and upon completion, inmates earn 30 days merit time against their max date. So I sign up for the program, after being idle in prison for a month. So Feb. 1st I start working on my GED, and lets say in 8 months I finally finish and get my GED.

When I successfully complete that GED, I get 30 days merit time. So, if you are tracking, by October 1st, 2010, I get my GED, and 30 days knocked off my maximum date. So now, instead of me getting out March 1st, 2014, I can get out February 1st, 2014.

Now, let’s suppose after another month of inactivity, I get a job as a dorm janitor. This is a prison job, and gives gain time per month worked. Some prison jobs give more days than others, usually anywhere from 3-6 days per month worked. Lets say in my case, I get 5 days per month worked. So, November 1st, 2010, I get a dorm janitor job, earning 5 days per month.

Let’s say I work that job for a full year. That means I get 5 days PER month worked, or 5 X 12, which is 60 days. By doing that, I knock off 2 months off my sentence, not the original max, because remember, I earned 30 days with my GED. The new maximum release date was Feb 1st 2014. But now, after working a year, I knock two more months off, taking it down to December 1st, 2013.

So after I work a full year as a dorm janitor, by November 1st, 2011, my new release date is December 1st, 2013.

The target date that I would like to get is that minimum, which is 33 months. If I started my sentence on January 1st, 2010, then 33 months takes me to about October 1st, 2012. That is the earliest I can get out of prison, if I do things that show that I am bettering myself, and earning gain time or merit time.

Lets say that after a year of working as a dorm janitor, I get a better job working in the kitchen. Instead of 5 days a month, I now get 6 per month. I switch to that job, and work there 6 months.

That means from November 1st to May 1st, 2012, I am working in the kitchen and earned 6 days per month, or 36 days total. This now brings my release date down one more month from the max. Remember, my new release date is December 1st, 2013, but now, with 36 days coming off that, it is now down to about late October, 2013.

So by May 1st, 2012, my new release date is about October 25th, 2013. (give or take a few days)

Now you notice something here. The very minimum I could be in prison, according to the sentence, was 33 months, which puts me about October of 2012. But now, in this example, I am already in May of 2012, and my release date is October of 2013. At this point, there is no way I can get out by the minimum date, because I have not earned the gain time fast enough. Even if I work that kitchen job another 6 months, at 6 days a month, by the time I finish, it will be November 1st of 2012, and with another month knocked off the max, my new release date would be about September 19th or so, 2013.

So some of you would say, well, if he is already at his minimum, can’t they let him out? It does not work that way. He still has to earn that minimum release date, and with my example, I have not earned enough to get out early. Now, this might be where parole and probation come in, but I won’t include that here. But in my example, I am technically in my minimum release date range, but I have not earned enough to get out.

So as of November 1st, 2012, my new release date would be about September 19th, 2013. A difference of about a year between where I stand now, and when I am formally released. If I work in that kitchen another 6 months, and earn another 36 days, then by May 1st, 2013, my new release date would be about August 12th 2013...only 3 months away.

Now, it IS possible to earn enough gain time to have gotten out by the minimum date, but some of you may ask, what if you earn more? Can you get out sooner. Easy answer…no. The MINIMUM cannot change, even if you earn more gain time and merit time. In my example, the difference in my minimum and max was 17 months. Even if I earned 20 months, the minimum would still be the same. I cannot exceed that date of the minimum release date.

Now, I spoke about jail credit earlier…what if I was in jail 6 months before my sentence? In many cases, the judge will award the inmate jail credit, because a person waiting for his sentence should be (in most cases) given those days since at that time he was not guilty of his charge…only detained. Many people do get jail credit if they were in jail for a lengthy period of time before their sentence. If the judge awards that, that time comes off the MINIMUM sentence…I say again the MINIMUM, not max.

If that was the situation in my example, and if the judge gave me 6 months jail credit, then my real sentence would not be 33 to 50 months, it would be 27 to 44 months… everything shifts 6 months because technically I was serving time BEFORE I was sentenced. So I start off my sentence with less time to do, because I was already doing it long before I was sent there.

I hope this helps you, I could have run up several other examples to help you understand, I mean, I could have gone 10 pages with this easy. I hope it helps you. Well, gotta go, email me when you can, and ask me about subjects you want me to blog about. Until then….

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