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://www.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://www.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://www.restorejustice.org/goodtime-changes-2020/

        Article about “truth in sentencing” in Illinois: https://www.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://www.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.

  • Sonya Brown
    Posted at 04:22h, 23 October Reply

    I UNDERSTAND THE LAW WAS CREATED PERTAINING TO OFFENDERS IN YEAR OF 1998. How about get rid of that law co.mpletly there are actually reformed people just sitting in the prison system wasting away. Due to unjust laws. People committing crimes such as murder getting less time for the crime. My husband prime example was sentenced to 18 years per case attempted .murder also armed robbery the victim never reported anything stolen . My son was shot in the head and chest September 1 of this year fighting for his life hes only 24 years old and no one is looking for the assailant that did this to him . If and when they catch him I bet justice will not be served. Iam fed up with these laws and prison system.

  • Danielle Washington
    Posted at 16:42h, 02 November Reply

    Are they giving out any good time or doing any early release my hisband have 6 months left

  • Brian Hodge
    Posted at 19:54h, 11 November Reply

    Do women in the Illinois Department of corrections get to earn good time if they have a sentence of 85%

  • Nirvana Cueto
    Posted at 15:17h, 09 December Reply

    @Alissa he has been in since 2002 so this law doesnt qualify for him its horrible how the inmate who did the murder is serving half his sentencing but my husband who was JUST the driver has to serve 100% what is the governor doing about the pending Clemency from 2018 and 2019 also requested to do emergency clemecy for what nothing is being done especially during this covid virus that has hit our loved ones and they have no contact visit only with guards and staff who are taking it to them!!!!

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 22:18h, 09 December Reply

      We are very worried about COVID, as well. We are watching the numbers and demanding more releases, more testing, and better treatment. All incarcerated people should be tested regularly, and those that are sick should be well cared for. Which prison is your husband at?

  • Nirvana Cueto
    Posted at 21:24h, 14 December Reply

    @alissa Rivera he is in dixon correctional any update on the clemency or emergency clemency they have requested the inmated to do. he had his hearing in october 2019 still pending. he had a clemency when Previous governor was on but they made him redo it because of new governor

  • lana zumut
    Posted at 19:49h, 15 January Reply

    my brother been incarcerated since 2002, he is in hell correctional center he been getting his certificates in every program he have good behavior, now he is trying to get his GED. they give him 20 yrs for the murder and 25 years for the gun that they never found, is there any way that my brother can be release earlier and drop the gun charge he have. since he was sentenced as young adult he was a teen. and there is a lot of new evidence in his case prove he is innocent it suppose to be a self defense but the system has failed him without looking in the evidence please if you can contact me and tell me what I can do.

  • Vadal Redmond
    Posted at 22:55h, 23 January Reply

    This is not a question on good time program. I’m trying to understand the inmate search site. In detailing the inmate’s sentencing and parole, there is a row with COUNT in the column next to it is the number 1. Does that mean murder 1 or what does that stand for. Thanks for your assistance.

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 23:29h, 25 January Reply

      That is the number of counts of that specific charge.

  • Elizabeth Cueto
    Posted at 18:25h, 09 February Reply

    @alissa Rivera Are they going to add anything on Truth in Sentencing in the new bill that the governor sent back to add about prison reform? i want to know if theyll be lowering thei time from 100% to 85-90% on the new bill to be signed this July would you know? it for inmates doing time from 2002 at 100% under truth in sentencing

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 19:28h, 11 February Reply

      Hi Elizabeth, Are you asking about the criminal law omnibus bill? I don’t believe the bill has been sent to the Governor yet. We are hopeful he will sign it, but encourage everyone to ask him to do so! That bill does have some pieces about sentencing credits. However, it doesn’t eliminate truth in sentencing. There’s more info here under “Sentencing Credits.” https://restorejusticeillinois.org/criminal-law-omnibus-summary/

  • Giovanna Ciccio
    Posted at 23:43h, 25 February Reply

    person in custody on 11/1998 serving 28 yr sentence ADA wheelchair bound due to injury sustained in IDOC’s care to ACL and IDOC refuse to allow surgery (too expensive) yet not giving ADA documented and mandated phys therapy also person served 6 YEARS in solitary AND has completed multiple levels of education since in custody age of inmate approaching 50 (high health concerns with COVID crisis where community housing and close quarters prohibit proper distancing) anything that can be done to help (?) current release date 2026

  • laurie fowler
    Posted at 22:11h, 22 March Reply

    my son is in graham cc hes been in other prison hes trying to better himself to get good time he went to school in galsburg all he could now works in the kitchen were he at helps were ever he can is prole date is 2035 hes in as a sex offender hes wanted to know what more can he do to get early release

  • Stacey Black
    Posted at 16:05h, 04 April Reply

    So if I’m understanding correctly, the 85% law has not changed for people sentenced after 1998? My friend was convicted for aggravated dui, sentenced to 7 years/85% with no “good time.” Since it was in 2019 nothing changes for him?

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 15:56h, 06 April Reply

      Yes. This bill clarifies good time for people convicted before Illinois enacted Truth in Sentencing in 1998. It doesn’t remove the Truth in Sentencing for people convicted since 1998.

  • Mr Phillip o Dyer
    Posted at 05:23h, 25 April Reply

    Let me get this right if I get sentenced to six years at 50% and I go to say southwestern drug rehabilitation and I get a GED I’m only gonna get 90 days good time on top of my 50% because 90 days is the max you can get? Thank you I hope to Hear back from you

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 20:56h, 27 April Reply

      Hi, That is a good question. I think you are correct, but Restore Justice does not work specifically on this issue so to be certain, I recommend asking the John Howard Association. Also, the law only applies to those sentenced before 1998, the year Illinois eliminated good time.

  • chauntel m Jones
    Posted at 13:08h, 21 May Reply

    My husband was sentence 30 years suspend 10 75% 15 years got sentenced in 2014 he is going on 7 yrs.. Drug charge first time offense. He is 63 does the new law apply to him trying to get his diploma at his age. It’s really hard for him is there anything he can do

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 14:31h, 21 May Reply

      Hi, I’m sorry to hear about your husband. We are thinking of you. This bill is for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

  • chauntel m Jones
    Posted at 13:11h, 21 May Reply

    He is in Indiana idoc

  • chauntel m Jones
    Posted at 13:29h, 21 May Reply

    My husband is 63 he is getting his literacy and trying for his ged what if he can’t get it he has to have it to get time cuts is there a limit to age on trying to do this he already has a time cut but don’t get credit until he gets his G.E.D

  • Monique Cook
    Posted at 01:26h, 01 July Reply

    Hi! I’m checking to see if the laws has changed for this good time program. I have a relative that has been locked up for 27 years now. A little over 50% of his time. He was at Dixon and they were trying to get him to put in application for work release and he didn’t because he was told when he transferred to Robinson he would get good time day for day and could work 2 jobs and get double day for day. Now they are telling him no, it’s only one job day for day and that he doesn’t qualify for work release because he’s class X. Can you please advise?

  • Shane Thomas
    Posted at 11:33h, 27 January Reply


    Is it lawful in Illinois for parole time to exceed the time of an actual sentence? This is in regards to an aggravated domestic battery case.

    Thank you,


  • Evelin arellano
    Posted at 01:03h, 25 February Reply

    Hello, so if my boyfriend is serving 85% of his 6 year sentence there is nothing in his power to get out?

  • Angela Singleton
    Posted at 02:36h, 11 August Reply

    Hi my brother has been locked up since 2001 in Illinios so he has been gon for 21yrs with 29yrs to go. He was sentenced to 50 yrs Is he under the new or old law? And can he get resentenced?

    • Alissa Rivera
      Posted at 15:02h, 11 August Reply

      Hello Angela, Unfortunately, the new changes only apply to people sentenced before 1998. Illinois got rid of a lot of good time after that year. The only county that has provided information about resentencing is Cook. If your brother’s conviction is in Cook County, here is the info they have provided: https://www.restorejustice.org/fall-2021-newsletter/

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 04:39h, 30 August Reply

    Hi Heather. I know this post is 2 years old now but hoping you see it. It’s really wild that our husbands were in the SAME position. I bet they know each other. Mine was the last ride out from lake county in March 2020, spent nearly 6 months in reception at Lorain, and also worked in the kitchen. I never heard anything about good days for the kitchen work. If you see this, please message me at jgoertler@gmail.com
    Thanks in advance!

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