Changes to “Good Time” in 2020

Changes to “Good Time” in 2020

by Restore Justice, in partnership with John Howard Association

Changes to Illinois’ Truth in Sentencing law become effective on January 1, 2020. Here is what you need to know.

Disclaimer: Restore Justice was not a part of the legislative effort that resulted in the passage of HB0094, and so we are relying on our own analysis of the law along with our partners’ feedback to generate this summary. We decided to publish a summary because we were getting an overwhelming number of questions on the topic.

The most important thing to know is that the new law only applies to people serving sentences for offenses committed before June 19, 1998. (Truth in Sentencing, which eliminated and reduced sentencing credits, is still the law.)

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has not yet issued clear guidance on how they plan to implement this new law, but with our friends at John Howard Association, we have outlined our summary of the law below.

The law requires IDOC to award up to 90 days of sentence credit for successful completion of programming listed under 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(4) to people who are currently serving a sentence for an offense committed prior to June 19, 1998.   

Programming listed in paragraph 4 of 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3 includes full-time substance abuse programs, correctional industry assignments, educational programs, behavior modification programs, life skills courses, or re-entry planning should count for sentence credit. Obtaining college and advanced degrees should also count.

If this change in the law applies to you, sentencing credit should be awarded to you for successfully completing programming at any time during your current term of incarceration. So, you should be awarded sentence credit for programming successfully completed at any time before or after the day the change in the law goes into effect (January 1, 2020). The programming must have been completed during your current term of incarceration if you are currently incarcerated for an offense committed prior to June 19, 1998.

Here’s how the amount of sentence credit would be determined: 

If the person participated in more than 45 days of programs, they would receive 90 days of sentence credit. If the person completed less than 45 days or cannot prove they completed more than 45 days, they would receive 45 days of sentence credit. 

An additional 180 days of sentence credit could be awarded to people who obtain bachelor’s, master’s, or professional degrees while in IDOC custody. 

We interpret this to mean that no one will get more than 90 days of credit via this program unless they obtained a bachelor’s master’s, or professional degree within IDOC.

Here’s what’s needed to be eligible for sentence credit: 

Documentation that the person participated in and completed full-time substance abuse programs, correctional industry assignments, educational programs, behavior modification programs, life skills courses, or re-entry planning.

The incarcerated person’s own testimony, through an affidavit or documentation, OR a third party’s documentation or testimony, through an affidavit, that the person participated in and completed the programs.  

Other things to know:

  • If IDOC and the incarcerated person don’t agree on the number of days of sentence credit, and IDOC has documentation, the IDOC determination will be used. 
  • If the IDOC doesn’t have documentation/proof, the incarcerated person’s proof would determine the amount of sentence credit. 
  • People convicted of sex offenses, defined by the Sex Offender Registration Act, could only receive sentencing credits if they’ve completed or are participating in sex offender treatment approved by the Sex Offender Management Board. 
  • People serving natural life sentences do not receive sentence credit under this bill. 
  • People required to serve 100, 85, or 75 percent of their sentences (subject to Truth In Sentencing) do not receive sentence credits under this bill.
  • IDOC defines what “successful completion of programming” means. Generally speaking, however, successful completion of programming occurs if you complete the program you started. For example, if you were kicked out of a program due to rule violations or program noncompliance, OR if you quit a program, you did not successfully complete the program. If you were in a program like industries and were transferred to another prison, IDOC should consider the time you were in industries as time in a program successfully completed.
  • The types of programs that result in sentence credit under paragraph 4 of 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3 are programs commonly referred to as “contract time” programs. N/A, A/A and other self-help groups do not count as programming under paragraph 4. Neither do activities not directly provided by IDOC, such as Bible correspondence courses and other programs run by volunteers.  

  • Cleo White
    Posted at 22:09h, 16 January Reply

    If u produced all the documents for schooling how long does it take for them too recieve there good time!

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 18:25h, 28 January Reply

      Cleo, Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to your question. We will update this post if we receive more information.

  • michael singleton
    Posted at 03:12h, 05 February Reply


    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 15:52h, 10 March Reply

      Michael, The “good time” bill only applies to people sentenced before 1998. In 1998, Illinois did away with “good time.” This bill tries to make sure people who should have access to it, do. This article explains how much time a person has to serve based on their sentence: https://restorejustice.org/know-more-truth-in-sentencing/

  • Sonya Brown
    Posted at 04:47h, 07 February Reply

    I REALLY DONT UNDERSTAND HOW YOU PASS A LAW AND IT DOESNT PERTAIN TO INMATES THAT HAS BEEN LOCKED UP IN THE SYSTEM 25 YEARS AND IS INNOCENT. giVING people now less time that doesnt fit the crime please get rid of these ridiculous truth and sentencing laws

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 15:50h, 10 March Reply

      Sonya, The “good time” bill applies only to people sentenced before 1998. It’s not for people that are newly sentenced.

      Restore Justice believes strongly in the need for retroactivity and will continue working to make that a reality. We believe in creating opportunities for release. Here’s an article we wrote about “truth in sentencing” in Illinois: https://restorejustice.org/know-more-truth-in-sentencing/

      Please sign up for our mailing list or follow us on Facebook so we can stay connected about reform efforts.

  • Jennifer McCaslin
    Posted at 07:24h, 11 February Reply

    Question is – what is the Percentage of a non violent drug charge for Federal prison ? If you get 2 years sentence how long will you have to do with the new IL laws ?

  • Dana S. Mcanught
    Posted at 18:53h, 13 February Reply

    I have a daughter in IDOC, she has done all of her classes and has been an outstanding inmate. Meaning she has followed all the rules and has not been in trouble while inside prison. When should she expect to get her good time?

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 15:33h, 10 March Reply

      Dana, What year was your daughter sentenced in? This bill only applies to people sentenced before 1998. It clarifies their ability to earn “good time.” But, in 1998, Illinois did away with “good time,” and people sentenced after that year aren’t eligible. Restore Justice believes strongly in the need to create opportunities for release. Please stay in touch, and we can update you on our efforts.

      • Heather l Severson
        Posted at 20:39h, 06 August Reply

        Hello my husband resides in a reception center in lorain and has been there since march 19th 2020 he has been sentenced 2 yrs prison spent already 6 months jail time prior to going to prison in march. He has been working in the kitchen for the time hes been there and due to covid transfers aren’t going on at this time , will he be awarded good days for working the time in his reception center since hes awaiting to go to his parent institution? Thanks or can you direct be to a website that explains time allowd for inmates in reception centers with covid going on and if he can get good days being there, will he automatically get 54 good days a year if hes good. Please help thanks.

        • Alissa Rivera
          Posted at 14:38h, 07 August Reply

          Hi Heather, That is a good question. I don’t know the answer. I would suggest contacting the John Howard Association. Sorry I don’t have a better answer. https://www.thejha.org/faq

  • Nirvana Cueto
    Posted at 17:35h, 19 February Reply

    When is the truth in sentencing going to change for inmates doing 100% my husband has been in there for 18 years serving 22 years lost many years of his life without his family and kids it is his first offense locked up for a murder and he was just the driver. these laws need to change Can someone let me know something about the ones facing 100% he has gone to school and works in there and stays out of trouble how can they get time served or their time cut to good time what do we have to do to help change these laws under truth in sentencing?

    • Joshua Anderson
      Posted at 18:26h, 01 March Reply

      Have you ever received in answer to your question? I was just curious because I have a brother in a similar situation. He is serving 25 years on a first-degree murder charge and he told me there was supposed to be a change to the law reducing the 100% to 80-85%. Thanks and good luck to you and your daughter!
      +God bless,
      Joshua Anderson

      • Alissa Rivera
        Posted at 15:26h, 10 March Reply

        Hi Joshua, The legislation that took effect this year applies to people sentenced before 1998. It is supposed to ensure those people receive their “good time.” Illinois did away with “good time” in 1998, and people sentenced after that year were sentenced under “truth in sentencing.”

        Article about the “good time” bill: https://restorejustice.org/goodtime-changes-2020/

        Article about “truth in sentencing” in Illinois: https://restorejustice.org/know-more-truth-in-sentencing/

        Please let me know if you have any other questions.

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 15:31h, 10 March Reply

      Nirvana, What year was your husband sentenced? Illinois did away with “good time” in 1998. If he was sentenced after 1998, there are not “good time” options. Restore Justice strongly believes in the need for opportunities for release (good time, parole, etc.). Please consider signing up for our mailing list or following us on social media so we can stay in touch. We take trips to Springfield to ask lawmakers to make Illinois more compassionate and just.

  • Pearlie M.Johnson
    Posted at 19:57h, 06 March Reply

    My Son has been Locked Up since 2001, charged with a murder that He clearly did not commit, He has never been up for any kind of good time.. He has never been in trouble incarcerated, a model inmate..years has been taken from his life, He served his country in the military. Never been in trouble before and still He’s still behind Bars. Where is the JUSTICE!!.

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 15:21h, 10 March Reply

      Sorry to read this, Pearlie. Illinois did away with “good time” in the 1990s. The only people still accruing good time were sentenced before 1998. Restore Justice believes strongly in the need to create opportunities for release. We hope you will join our mailing list and/or social media channels and stay in contact as we work for a more compassionate and just system.

      Here’s an article about truth in sentencing: https://restorejustice.org/know-more-truth-in-sentencing/

  • Meli
    Posted at 18:30h, 28 March Reply

    I need some clarification…my love one has multiple classes/programs completed successful through out the last 23 yrs of his incarceration. Now is this just a one time 90 day credit for all classes? Or is it 90 days per every class completed?

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 16:35h, 31 March Reply

      It’s 90 days total.

  • Joy Sand
    Posted at 08:26h, 22 May Reply

    Curious if a prisoner is serving 6 months of his year sentence in NRC because of the Corona virus, cant get transfered because they are on lockdown, do you think he’ll get released early.

  • Irean Spells
    Posted at 21:53h, 24 July Reply

    Is there a FORM to be completed for the 6 month early release program?

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 18:43h, 27 July Reply

      Hi Irean, This “good time” legislation applies to people sentenced before 1998. (The State eliminated “good time” after that.) It allows for up to 3 months of sentence credit. A person who is incarcerated receives that time through participation in certain programs. If a person is owed “good time,” but hasn’t received it, they should deal with facility staff. I hope this helps; Restore Justice didn’t work on this bill so I don’t have more info beyond what’s provided here.

  • Cliff Henderson
    Posted at 23:15h, 07 August Reply

    My son will be getting sentence next Wednesday for a Class 1 felony for D.U.I, he will take a 4 year sentence that day. Can you please tell me if he will be eligible for the good time credit? How much good time will he receive and how much time will he do on that 4 year sentence for class 1 felony D.U.I? I tried to look at it above but I’m not getting it and I apologise! Also when he’s released from Illinois prison he’s going to go to Missouri to answer felony probation revocation, what should he do to take cake of Missouri while in Illinois? To run it concurrent please help! Thank you so much

  • Charlene Rusterholz
    Posted at 17:36h, 14 August Reply

    Wondering about bill to b paased – imates serving 85% changed to 75?%. My grandson has taken classes etc hoping good time will also apply

  • Jerry Wilbourn
    Posted at 15:47h, 22 August Reply

    Does this apply for Al. Sentence in 2010

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 20:19h, 25 August Reply

      This bill only applies to people sentenced before 1998. Illinois enacted “truth in sentencing” that year.

  • Ann McGee
    Posted at 19:20h, 10 October Reply

    My son just got sentience to 6 years for legal pot it was a lot. Can someone give me advise when he goes to get assess in Statesville how it works. And what happens please

  • Deborah Bailey
    Posted at 22:04h, 19 October Reply

    If the original offense was prior to 1998 but it was a sex offender offense which required registry on the sex offender list, is failure to register considered a new offense or will the original sentence be used.

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