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November 14, 2005

Fifth Circuit on the calculation of good-time credit

The Fifth Circuit released today Moreland vs. Federal Bureau Prisons, 05-20347 (5th Cir. Nov. 10, 2005) (available here), an important decision about the calculation of good-time credits.  Per Judge Owen, here is the opening paragraph:

In this habeas corpus proceeding, we must determine whether a federal statute governing credit for good conduct unambiguously directs how that credit is to be calculated and applied. Because we conclude the statute is unambiguous, we do not address whether the rule of lenity applies or whether the Federal Bureau of Prisons' interpretation of the statute must be accorded deference under Chevron, U.S.A. v. Natural Resources DefenseCouncil, Inc. and its progeny.  The Bureau of Prisons correctly determined the good-conduct credits in this case.  Therefore, we reverse the district court's grant of habeas relief and deny the petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Though federal inmates will surely care most about the outcome in Moreland, statutory construction and administrative law fans will likely be intrigued by the Fifth Circuit's chosen means.  Highlighting this reality, consider these part of Judge Stewart's special concurrence:

Rather than hinge reversal of the district court's judgment upon whether this ambiguity is dissolved by the context of the words, I would uphold the BOP interpretation of the statute because it is one of at least two reasonable interpretations of § 3624(b).... I agree with our sister circuits that found ambiguous the § 3624(b) language and that found applicable Chevron's deference.

November 14, 2005 at 02:17 PM | Permalink


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This Fifth Cir opinion is the latest in a lamentable series of result-oriented decisions. The truth is that the language of 18 U.S.C. sec 3624(b) rather unambiguously shows the BoP's convoluted system for the calculation of good conduct time credits to be erroneous. The statute entitles a federal prisoner to 54 days off for each year of the sentence imposed, not 54 days' credit after service of another 365 days, as the BoP would have it. The result of the Bureau's "fuzzy math" is to give federal prisoners, in general, 47 days' GCT per year rather than 54 -- a difference of a week per year. The difference to the BoP is many millions in funding for "prisoner-days," all of it wasted tax money with no beneficial effect on crime control.

Posted by: Peter G | Nov 14, 2005 10:39:32 PM

The majority's position is a joke -- just another example of the 5th Circuit sticking it to criminal defendants regardless of the law. Anyone who claims that 3624's language "unambiguous[ly]" supports the BOP's bizarre reading is simply being dishonest. The concurrence is at least honest on this point.

Posted by: YCL | Nov 15, 2005 10:51:16 AM

Ex fedral inmate, release Feb 14, 2005. sentence 72 months.

I was an inmate.
Write back.. Noe medrano

Posted by: Noe Medrano | Nov 15, 2005 4:19:10 PM

John Alden Fulkerson

1112 E. 69th Street

Tacoma, Wa 98404-2214

(253) 301-9434

Dear Legal Community,
I pray that you, and/or your colleagues, will help me in a matter that concerns the ongoing Violations of the Constitutional Rights of several hundreds of thousands of Federal Inmates, past and present, during the past twenty (20) years [since 1 November 1987 - the date of enactment of 18 U.S.C. §3624(b)(1) ].

On 1 December 2006, I filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. §2241, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi - Civil Action No. 5:06cv174DCB-MTP, challenging the execution of my sentence as prescribed by §3624(b)(1), which provides, in sum, that for each year (365 days) served with good behavior, Federal Inmates may earn up to 54 days of "Good Conduct Time" (GCT).

The controversy is that Congress intended for Federal Inmates to be able to reduce their sentence(s) by up to, but not more than, 15% for good behavior, (Attested to by Sen. Joseph Biden, in the United States Congressional Record, on 9 February 1995, (141 Cong. Rec. S.2348-01, at S.2349), "I was coauthor of that bill. In the Federal Courts, if a judge says you are going to go to prison for 10 years, you know you are going to go to prison for at least 85 percent of that time-8.5 years, which is what the law mandates. You can get up to 1.5 years [15 percent] in good time credits, but that is all." ). However, §3624(b)(1) falls short of fulfilling that intent by providing a reduction of sentence(s) of only approximately 13% [ 54 / ( 54 + 365 ) = 54 / 419 = 0.12888 or 12.888% ], resulting in Federal Inmates serving more time in prison than Congress intended, without due process of law to justify the forfeiture/deficiency (a violation of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States).

Since Congress intended for Federal Inmates to be able to reduce their sentence(s) by up to, but not more than, 15%, Federal Inmates with good behavior will serve at least 85% of their sentence(s). Therefore, for every 85 days served a Federal Inmate will earn 15 days of GCT for good behavior. Or, for each day served a Federal Inmate will earn 0.17647 of a day of GCT [ 15 / 85 = 0.17647 ]. Under §3624(b)(1), GCT is earned for each year (365 days) of sentence(s) served. Whereby, at the daily earning rate of 0.17647 per day served will accrue 64 days of GCT [ 0.17647 x 365 = 64.41155 ], not 54 days, as specified in §3624(b)(1). Thus, resulting in all Federal Inmates that are earning GCT under §3624(b)(1) to serve an additional ten (10) days in prison, per year (365 days) of sentence(s) served, resulting in their Constitutional rights being violated, by denying them their right to liberty, without due process of law.

This deficiency of ten (10) days, per year (365 days) of sentence(s) served, is currently costing the Taxpayer more than $120 MILLION annually, and more than $1 BILLION for all sentences currently being executed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Because §3624(b)(1) applies to all Federal Inmates that are serving (a) sentence(s) of more than one (1) year, but less than life, on 14 February 2007, I filed a Motion to Certify Class Action [9], which the Court has willfully neglected to rule upon.

On 16 June 2008, I filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Western Division, a Notice of Appeal, due to numerous violations of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Courts willful reluctance to render a meaningful decision in this matter. This matter is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit- Civil Action No. 08-60545.

If you, and/or your colleagues, wish to assist, and/or support, me in this matter of unprecedented monumental national importance, your professional assistance will be invaluable.

If you want more information on this matter, you may contact me, or leave a message, at the above.

Thank you for your valuable time and consideration. I look forward to your response.

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ John Alden Fulkerson

Posted by: John Fulkerson | Sep 30, 2008 10:34:41 PM

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