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Williams v. Irving

OPINION FILED JULY 23, 1981.

ALBERT WILLIAMS ET AL., PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,

v.

JAMES IRVING ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. HERMAN S. HAASE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE ALLOY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

These consolidated cases all raise the issue of whether the Department of Corrections (Department), in implementing the mandate of Johnson v. Franzen (1979), 77 Ill.2d 513, 397 N.E.2d 825, must grant to prisoners sentenced prior to February 1, 1978, the full amount of statutory good time applicable to their sentences under the old sentencing law, regardless of the actual time served by them prior to February 1, 1978. The prisoners all filed petitions for writs of mandamus, alleging that the Department was wrongfully denying them the benefit of day-for-day good time, to which they were entitled under Johnson v. Franzen, through its failure to credit the prisoners with the full amount of statutory good time applicable under the old sentencing law. The Johnson v. Franzen decision held that prisoners serving indeterminate sentences imposed under the old sentencing law were entitled to day-for-day good-time credit for the time they served after February 1, 1978. 77 Ill.2d 513, 522.

In response to the petitions, the Department filed motions to dismiss in all cases, arguing that recalculation of the sentences, including day-for-day good-time credit (for all time served) under the mandate of Johnson v. Franzen and the Department's implementation policy, would result under such interpretation, for these prisoners, in longer sentences than if they remained under the old sentencing system. Since application of the day-for-day credits in these cases did not benefit the prisoners, but worked to their detriment, the Department argued that Johnson v. Franzen did not apply. The Department emphasized that the prisoners were actually receiving treatment, under the system that provided for their shortest period of incarceration. The circuit court agreed with the Department's implementation policy, and it dismissed the petitions. This appeal followed.

The prisoners argue on this appeal that the Department's method of calculating their statutory good time, earned prior to February 1, 1978, was incorrect and contrary to the decision in Johnson v. Franzen. Further, they argue that a corrected methodology for computing pre-February 1, 1978, statutory good-time credit would result in a benefit to these prisoners, in the form of reduced sentences that would then benefit from application of post-February 1, 1978, day-for-day good-time credit under the new sentencing law.

The Illinois Supreme Court in the Johnson v. Franzen case discussed the relevant background and statutory provisions. Only a brief quotation from the opinion will be set forth herein:

"Until February 1, 1978, Illinois had a system of indeterminate sentences in which those committed to the Department of Corrections for commission of a felony were sentenced to minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1). Good-conduct credits were applied to the minimum term to advance the date of parole eligibility and to the maximum to advance the date beyond which a prisoner could not be incarcerated. The Department was required to prescribe, at a rate within its discretion, a schedule of good-conduct credits for good behavior (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 1003-6-3). These were known as `statutory good time credits.' The Department was also empowered to award good-conduct credits to prisoners who performed work assignments or participated in other Department programs (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 1003-12-5). These credits were known as `compensatory good time credits.'

Effective February 1, 1978, the General Assembly amended the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) and replaced in some instances the indeterminate sentencing system with a fixed or determinate sentencing system (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1978 Supp., ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1). The Code no longer gives the Department authority to award compensatory good-conduct credits (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1978 Supp., ch. 38, par. 1003-12-5) and no longer gives the Department the authority to award statutory good-time credit at a discretionary rate (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1978 Supp., ch. 38, par. 1003-6-3). The Code expressly directs the Department to prescribe rules and regulations providing for good-conduct credits on a day-for-day basis." (77 Ill.2d 513, 516.)

In the Johnson v. Franzen case the Department took the position that day-for-day good-time credits, as begun under the new sentencing law on February 1, 1978, did not apply to those prisoners sentenced to an indeterminate term under the old sentencing system. The Department continued treating them solely under the old sentencing law with respect to good-time credits. In Johnson v. Franzen, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected the Department's position and policy, and it held that the legislature intended that prisoners sentenced prior to February 1, 1978, under the old indeterminate system, were also, thereafter, to receive the benefit of the day-for-day good-time credit system which was instituted by the new sentencing law on February 1, 1978. The court concluded:

"From February 1, 1978, forward, plaintiff is entitled to one day of good-conduct credit for each day served to the extent his prison conduct merits the award of credits. The credits are to be applied to the minimum and maximum terms. For time served prior to February 1, 1978, plaintiff is entitled to the statutory and compensatory good-time credits to which he was entitled under the old good-conduct-credit system." (77 Ill.2d 513, 522.)

It is the latter statement by the court, regarding entitlement to statutory good-time credit under the old system, that forms the crux of the dispute in the instant case.

Following the decision in Johnson v. Franzen, the Department, by administrative direction, set forth a procedure for applying day-for-day good-conduct credit to indeterminate sentences imposed prior to February 1, 1978. Under that procedure, the Department first determined how much actual time a prisoner had served prior to February 1, 1978. Next, it was determined how much statutory good-time credit had been earned by the prisoner, based upon his amount of time served prior to February 1, 1978. The prisoner was then given credit for this pro rata share of statutory good time, and he was also credited with any compensatory good time he had earned prior to February 1, 1978. These figures, total compensatory good time and total earned statutory good time, were added together to arrive at a total time credit figure. This total, pre-February 1, 1978, time credit figure was then subtracted from the prisoners' court imposed minimums and maximums to determine how much time remained to be served on the sentences. It was from the latter figures, the adjusted minimums and maximums, that the Department would then apply day-for-day good-time credits earned after February 1, 1978.

As applied to certain prisoners, including the petitioners herein, however, the Department's procedure resulted in longer, rather than shorter, periods of incarceration. As to them, their periods of confinement would be shorter if they remained under the former system of statutory and compensatory good time. For these prisoners, who received no benefit, but a detriment, from day-for-day good-time credits, the Department continued to apply the old system and disregarded the new day-for-day good-time statute. It is these prisoners who filed the mandamus actions seeking to require the Department to credit them with the new day-for-day good-time credits.

They argue that the day-for-day good-time credits would be beneficial to them, if their sentences were properly adjusted for the good-time credits applicable under the old sentencing system. They argue that the Department's administrative directive, setting forth procedures for calculating the amount of statutory good time to which they were entitled under the old system was incorrect and contrary to the directive of Johnson v. Franzen. The essence of the argument is that the Department erred in only crediting them with a pro rata share of their statutory good time, based upon the actual time served prior to February 1, 1978. Rather, they argue, they were entitled to the full amount of statutory good time applicable to their full sentences, regardless of the length of time that they had actually served on those sentences. In support of the argument, they assert that it was Department policy, prior to February 1, 1978, to award the full amount of statutory good time to a prisoner at the beginning of his term. Therefore, they argue, Johnson v. Franzen's directive that they are entitled to the credits to which they were entitled under the old system means they are entitled to the full amount of statutory good time.

The Department defends its procedure, arguing that statutory good-time credit has always been awarded only on the basis of time actually served, thereby legitimizing their procedure of awarding only a pro rata share, based upon actual time served prior to February 1, 1978, in their calculations for converting old sentences to new ones for application of the new day-for-day good-time credits. The Department further asserts that the prisoners' reasoning would result in their receiving the full amount of statutory good time, under the old act, plus the full amount of ...


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