2010 Tennessee Code
Title 41 - Correctional Institutions And Inmates
Chapter 21 - Inmates
Part 2 - Regulation and Care of Inmates
41-21-236 - Sentence reduction credits.

41-21-236. Sentence reduction credits.

(a)  (1)  Those persons committed to the custody of the department of correction shall be assigned to work, educational and/or vocational training programs, when positions in those programs are available.

     (2)  (A)  Each inmate who exhibits good institutional behavior or who exhibits satisfactory performance within a program may be awarded time credits toward the sentence imposed, varying between one (1) day and sixteen (16) days for each month served, with not more than eight (8) days for each month served for good institutional behavior and not more than eight (8) days for each month served for satisfactory program performance in accordance with the criteria established by the department.

          (B)  (i)  In addition to the time program performance credit awarded pursuant to subdivision (a)(2)(A), the department shall provide an educational good time credit of sixty (60) days to any qualifying prisoner who successfully receives a graduate equivalency diploma (GED) or a high school diploma, a two-year or four-year college degree, or a two-year or four-year certification in applied sciences, or who receives a vocational education diploma as provided and defined by the department. No credit shall be given for any diploma, degree, or certification, unless the particular course of study, including the institution or entity through which it is offered, has received the prior approval of the department. A qualifying prisoner may receive no more than one (1) credit of sixty (60) days, regardless of the number of programs completed.

                (ii)  It is the legislative intent that this credit be implemented by the department in a manner that maximizes the potential of prisoners who will return to the community to become working and productive members of society through the benefit of their educational diploma or certificate. It is further the legislative intent that existing educational and vocational programs offered by the department shall not be increased in size as a result of the provisions of this subdivision (a)(2). Priority in enrollment in existing educational and vocational programs shall be given to prisoners who will be eligible for parole or release upon completion of their sentence and who can reasonably be expected to re-enter the workforce. Priority in enrollment shall also be given to prisoners who will be incarcerated by the department for such period of time that they will receive the full credit for sentence reduction provided in this subdivision (a)(2). Once these priorities have been met, enrollment in educational and vocational programs by other prisoners shall be available on a space-available basis, without any sentence reduction credit for any diploma or certification received.

                (iii)  The provisions of this subdivision (a)(2)(B) permitting an additional sixty (60) days of educational credit for obtaining a diploma shall not apply to any prisoner convicted of an offense that requires service of at least eighty-five percent (85%) of the sentence under § 40-35-501(i) or one hundred percent (100%) of the sentence under § 39-13-523.

          (C)  No inmate shall have the right to any such time credits, nor shall any inmate have the right to participate in any particular program, and may be transferred from one (1) assignment to another without cause. The provisions of this section shall also apply to any inmate sentenced to the department of correction who is being held on a contract basis by a private correctional corporation.

          (D)  The sixty (60) days of educational good time credit authorized by subdivision (a)(2)(B) shall also apply to any inmate who successfully received one (1) of the degrees specified in subdivision (a)(2)(B) prior to July 1, 2006, as well as those receiving degrees after July 1, 2006.

     (3)  Sentence credits shall not be earned or credited automatically, but rather shall be awarded on a monthly basis to an inmate at the discretion of the responsible warden in accordance with the criteria established by the department, and only after receipt by the warden of written documentation evidencing the inmate's good institutional behavior or satisfactory program performance or both.

     (4)  Sentence credits may not be awarded toward a period of less than one (1) calendar month or for any month in which an inmate commits a Class A disciplinary offense of which the inmate is found guilty. No sentence credits for good institutional behavior may be awarded for any month in which a inmate commits any disciplinary offense of which the inmate is found guilty.

     (5)  An inmate may be deprived of those sentence credits previously awarded pursuant to this section only for the commission of any major infraction designated by the department as a Class A disciplinary offense, including, but not limited to, rape, arson, riot, escape or assault with a deadly weapon, or refusal to participate in an assignment.

     (6)  The refusal of an inmate to participate in any assigned work, educational or vocational training program shall constitute a disciplinary offense for which the inmate can be penalized by the loss of sentence credits previously awarded.

     (7)  Sentence credits shall not be earned or credited to any inmates classified as maximum security or being held in punitive segregation.

(b)  The allowances which can be awarded pursuant to this section shall be referred to as inmate sentence reduction credits and shall affect release eligibility and sentence expiration dates in the same manner as time credits affected parole eligibility and sentence expiration dates prior to September 1, 1980.

(c)  (1)  Any provision of title 40, chapter 35 to the contrary notwithstanding, persons convicted under that chapter may be awarded sentence reduction credits as set forth in this section.

     (2)  Any provision of titles 39 and 40 to the contrary notwithstanding, all persons who commit Class X felonies on or after December 11, 1985, shall be eligible for the sentence reduction credits authorized by this section.

     (3)  Any person who committed a felony, including any Class X felony, prior to December 11, 1985, may become eligible for the sentence reduction credits authorized by this section by signing a waiver, in writing, of the right to serve the sentence under the law in effect at the time the crime was committed. However, sentence reduction credits authorized by this section may be awarded only for conduct or performance from and after the date a person becomes eligible under this subsection (c).

(d)  Sentence reduction credits for good institutional behavior as authorized by this section shall likewise apply in accordance with the terms of this section, and under the criteria, rules and regulations established by the department, to all felony offenders serving sentences of one (1) or more years in local jails or workhouses and to all inmates serving time in county jails or workhouses because the inmate's commitment to the department has been delayed due to invocation of the governor's emergency overcrowding powers or through an injunction from a federal court restricting the intake of inmates into the department. When this section is applied to those offenders, references herein to “warden” shall be deemed references to the superintendent or jailer, as appropriate. Such felony offenders shall not be eligible to receive any other sentence credits for good institutional behavior; provided, that in addition to the sentence reduction credits for good institutional behavior as authorized by this section, such felony offenders may receive any credits for which they are eligible under chapter 2 of this title, for work performed or satisfactory performance of job, educational or vocational programs.

(e)  (1)  Sentence reduction credits for good institutional behavior as authorized by this section shall also be awarded to all convicted felons for the time incarcerated prior to the imposition of sentence. The total credit to which a convicted felon may be entitled shall be calculated by determining the number of days actually served in jail prior to imposition of sentence and by adding to that number the sentence reduction credits awarded for good institutional behavior, if any, based upon the number of days served.

     (2)  The sentence reduction credits authorized by subdivision (e)(1) shall be awarded at the rate of eight (8) days for each month served prior to imposition of sentence unless there is an objection filed by the superintendent or jailer. If the superintendent or jailer objects to the number of sentence reduction credits awarded to a particular felon, the superintendent or jailer shall provide written documentation to the department stating the objection and the number of sentence credits, if any, the felon should be awarded. If an objection is filed in accordance with this subdivision (e)(2), the department shall adjust the number of sentence reduction credits awarded to conform to the number recommended in the superintendent's or jailer's written objection.

     (3)  Notwithstanding the fact that in the absence of an objection from the superintendent or jailer the sentence reduction credits authorized by this subsection (e) are awarded automatically, no convicted felon shall have a right to the credits nor shall the felon have a right to appeal the superintendent's or jailer's determination concerning the number of sentence reduction credits a particular felon should be awarded as set out in the superintendent's or jailer's written objection to the department.

(f)  (1)  Except as provided in subdivision (f)(2), an inmate serving a misdemeanor sentence in a county jail, workhouse or other local facility who exhibits good institutional behavior or who exhibits satisfactory performance within a program shall be awarded inmate sentence reduction credits towards the inmate's release and expiration dates at the same rate and in the same manner as is provided in this section for inmates serving felony sentences.

     (2)  If an inmate is serving a misdemeanor sentence in a local facility which awards sentence credits at a different rate than provided by this section for felons, the inmate may elect to receive the sentence credits either under the system provided in this section for felons or under the system in effect at the local facility.

     (3)  In no event may an inmate receive credits cumulatively under both systems or receive credits at a rate that is less than that provided by this section for felons.

     (4)  In imposing a misdemeanor sentence, the court shall fix a percentage of the sentence which an inmate shall serve before release from confinement. After service of that percentage and allowance for credits authorized herein, the defendant shall be released from confinement. The percentage shall be expressed as thirty percent (30%), forty percent (40%), fifty percent (50%), sixty percent (60%), seventy percent (70%), eighty percent (80%), ninety percent (90%) or one hundred percent (100%). In no event shall the application of sentence credits result in more than a twenty-five percent (25%) reduction in the inmate's release percentage.

(g)  The department is authorized to continue the application of the previously enacted sentence credit systems formerly codified in §§ 41-21-212 [repealed], 41-21-213 [repealed], 41-21-214 [repealed], 41-21-215 [repealed], 41-21-228 [repealed], 41-21-229 [repealed], 41-21-230 [repealed], 41-21-231 [repealed], 41-21-232 [repealed] and 41-21-233 [repealed], to any inmates to whom they currently apply and who do not sign written waivers as provided in subsection (c). Any sentence credits earned or awarded under previously enacted systems shall continue to remain in full force and effect unless and until they are taken away in accordance with the procedures established by the previously enacted systems.

(h)  Nothing in this section shall operate to reduce the minimum sentence of a person convicted of the offense of driving under the influence of an intoxicant as prohibited by §§ 55-10-401 55-10-403.

(i)  Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no sentence credits authorized by this section or any other provision of law, or no sentence contract authorized by §§ 40-28-115, 40-28-116, 40-34-103 and 40-35-501 or any other provision of law, shall have the effect of reducing the amount of time an inmate must serve before the inmate's earliest release eligibility date, undiminished by any sentence credits, by more than thirty-five percent (35%). For inmates sentenced for offenses committed on or after January 1, 1988, no sentence credits or sentence contract shall have the effect of reducing the amount of time an inmate must serve before the inmate's earliest release eligibility date, undiminished by the sentence credits, by more than thirty percent (30%).

(j)  As used in this section, “sentence credits” includes any credit, whether called that or not, that results in a reduction of the amount of time an inmate must serve on the original sentence or sentences. The provisions of this section shall not be applicable when the powers granted pursuant to this title are in effect to reduce prison overcrowding.

[Acts 1985 (1st E.S.), ch. 5, §§ 12, 52; 1988, ch. 599, § 1; 1989, ch. 42, § 1; 1997, ch. 356, § 1; 2006, ch. 624, § 1; 2007, ch. 350, § 1.]  

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