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.