Calculating Good Time Credit

Federal Good Time Credit

18 U.S.C. 3624 (b) is the law that addresses federal good time credit.  The statute provides for the award of good time credit for satisfactory behavior by a federal prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year, but less than life.  Those prisoners sentenced to life are ineligible to receive good time credit.  Further, because a sentence of more than one year is required to receive good time credit, defense counsel should advocate for a sentence of one year and one day, opposed to one year or 12 months.  Failure to do so precludes the defendant from receiving any good time credit.

Receiving Good Time Credit

A federal prisoner may receive good time credit of up to 54 days for each year of an imposed jail sentence, reducing the term served, providing the prisoner “has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations.” 

In awarding good time credit, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) also considers whether the prisoner has, during the year, made satisfactory progress toward earning a high school diploma or an equivalent degree.  BOP makes the determination of good time credit at the end of each year of imprisonment, except for the last year of a prison term, when the determination is made on the first day of that year. 

What Happens When Good Time Credit is Not Awarded?

If the BOP determines that a prisoner has not satisfactorily complied with the institutional regulations, it may award either no good time credit for that year or less than 54 days, as it deems appropriate. 

If the BOP decides to award no good time credit or a lesser amount than 54 days, credit that has not been earned may not later be earned for that particular year. 

While the potential maximum good time credit may be calculated in advance of the annual award of credit determination, the total credit actually awarded is calculated at the end of each year.  Therefore, early calculations are estimates only.

An example of determining an actual jail sentence to be served, reduced by potential award of good time credits is as follows. 

If a prisoner is sentenced to 124 months of imprisonment, the potential good time credit towards this sentence may be determined in two ways. 

  • First, 124 months equals 10 years and 4 months.  Good time credit may be calculated by multiplying 10 years by 54 days to be earned per year (540 days) and then adding the additional 4 months of credits (54 days per year divided by 12 months = 4.5 days per month), which equals 18 days (4 times 4.5).  Therefore, the total potential good time credit equals 558 days.
  • A second way of performing this calculation is by multiplying the 124-month sentence by 4.5 days per month, which also equals 558 days. Subtracting this number from the 124-month prison sentence results in an actual term to serve of approximately 8 years and 172 days.

Calculating Good Time Credit

In summary, once a defendant received a federal sentence of imprisonment, potential good time credit may be calculated. 

  • First, to qualify for such credit, the defendant must receive a term to serve equal to or greater than one year and one day, but less than a term of life.
  • Second, multiply the number of months of the total imposed sentence by 4.5. This yields the maximum amount of potential good time credit to be earned. Third and lastly, subtract this number from the total sentence imposed to determine the estimated actual term to serve, providing the defendant earns and is awarded the maximum amount of good time credit for each year of imposed imprisonment.

If you are a federal inmate or recently sentenced federal defendant and have questions about your potential good time credit and/or its impact on your imposed sentence of imprisonment, contact the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III by email or call today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a free consultation.