The United States Supreme Court by a 6-3 vote, yesterday, endorsed a long-standing Bureau of Prisons (BOP) method of calculating "good time credit" based on the length of time actually served, not the length of the term imposed by the sentencing judge, a Law.com article this morning said -- a decision affecting the prison terms of nearly 200,000 inmates in federal prisons across the nation.
"The federal sentencing statute at issue," the Court said, "provides that a 'prisoner . . . serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year . . . may receive credit toward the service of [that] sentence . . . of up to 54 days at the end of each year' subject to the Bureau of Prison's (BOP) 'determination . . . that, during that year, the prisoner' has behaved in an exemplary fashion. 18 U. S. C. §3624(b)(1)."
"In announcing the opinion," Law.com said, "Justice Breyer called his reading of the statute "the most natural" -- a blend of statutory interpretation and Algebra 101 -- which he said the "mathematically inclined" might like reading. The method allowing 54 days of credit for each year of a sentence, he said, would improperly give a well-behaved prisoner credit for both time served and time that was not served, but was offset by past good behavior."
Justice Kennedy, joined by Stevens and Ginsburg, in a strongly worded dissent, said the ruling will add "tens of thousands of years" collectively to time served, at a "cost to taxpayers of untold millions of dollars." In human terms, Kennedy added, the ruling will be "devastating to the prisoners who have behaved the best."
Barber v. Thomas, 09-5201