Good Time Credit Law & Legal Definition

Good time credit is the amount of time that will be reduced from the actual time an inmate has to be in prison. Good time credit is earned for the good behavior that an inmate shows in the prison. It is the time given back to the inmates by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as a reward for following prison rules and staying out of trouble. Good time credit reduces a prisoner’s actual time in prison. This time off is also called “good conduct time.”

Federal prisoners serving a “term of imprisonment” of more than one year (at least 12 months and one day) and less than life in prison are eligible to earn good time. Only federal prisoners are eligible for good time under 18 USCS § 3624(b). Generally, federal prisons offer 54 days of time off for good behavior per year.

Provisions relating to good time credit for state prisoners vary from state to state. While some states offer a good time credit of 54 days per year, there are states that offer up to 15 days per month of good behavior credit, and also states prisons that offer no good time credit in their department of corrections rulings.

Provisions relating to good time credit for federal prisoners can be found at 18 USCS § 3624(b). The provisions are:

18 USCS § 3624 (b) - Credit toward service of sentence for satisfactory behavior:

(1) Subject to paragraph (2), a prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year[,] other than a term of imprisonment for the duration of the prisoner's life, may receive credit toward the service of the prisoner's sentence, beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, beginning at the end of the first year of the term, subject to determination by the Bureau of Prisons that, during that year, the prisoner has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations. Subject to paragraph (2), if the Bureau determined that, during that year, the prisoner has not satisfactorily complied with such institutional regulations, the prisoner shall receive no such credit toward service of the prisoner's sentence or shall receive such lesser credit as the Bureau determines to be appropriate. In awarding credit under this section, the Bureau shall consider whether the prisoner, during the relevant period, has earned, or is making satisfactory progress toward earning, a high school diploma or an equivalent degree. Credit that has not been earned may not later be granted. Subject to paragraph (2), credit for the last year or portion of a year of the term of imprisonment shall be prorated and credited within the last six weeks of the sentence.

(2) Notwithstanding any other law, credit awarded under this subsection after the date of enactment of the Prison Litigation Reform Act shall vest on the date the prisoner is released from custody.

(3) The Attorney General shall ensure that the Bureau of Prisons has in effect an optional General Educational Development program for inmates who have not earned a high school diploma or its equivalent.

(4) Exemptions to the General Educational Development requirement may be made as deemed appropriate by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.