Original action for mandamus, prohibition, or supervisory
JUSTICE SIMON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Our primary responsibility in this original action is to determine the scope of the authority granted to the Director of the Department of Corrections under a statute which provides for the early release of prisoners on account of good conduct. This opinion explains the basis for orders previously entered in this case on July 12, 1983, and July 15, 1983.
In this action the Director, Michael P. Lane, sought the issuance of writs of mandamus and prohibition or a supervisory order directing the respondents, judges of the circuit courts> of Cook, Peoria, Sangamon, Will and Winnebago counties, to dismiss numerous proceedings which had been initiated against him by several State's Attorneys. The petition for leave to file this action was filed a day after a judge of the Cook County circuit court issued a body attachment for the Director's arrest, threatened to imprison him if he did not appear in person before the judge the next morning, and directed that the Attorney General was not to represent the Director in that proceeding. On the same day the petition was filed, we granted leave to file the action and issued a stay of all the circuit court proceedings. The respondents are represented before this court by the State's Attorneys who brought the initial proceedings in the circuit courts>.
The proceedings in Cook and Peoria counties sought a rule to show cause why the Director should not be held in contempt, while the actions in Sangamon, Will and Winnebago counties sought a declaratory judgment and an injunction. All of the actions, however, required the circuit courts> to determine the scope of the Director's authority to award meritorious good time under section 3-6-3(a)(3) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 1003-6-3(a)(3)), which provides:
"Sec. 3-6-3. Rules and Regulations for Early Release. (a)(1) The Department of Corrections shall prescribe rules and regulations for the early release on account of good conduct of persons committed to the Department which shall be subject to review by the Prisoner Review Board.
(2) Such rules and regulations shall provide that the prisoner shall receive one day of good conduct credit for each day of service in prison for all classes of felonies other than where a sentence of `natural life' has been imposed. Each day of good conduct credit shall reduce by one day the inmate's period of incarceration set by the court.
(3) Such rules and regulations shall also provide that the Director may award up to 90 days additional good conduct credit for meritorious service in specific instances as the Director deems proper." (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 1003-6-3(a).)
Under this section there are two sources of good conduct credits which can lead to the early release of a prisoner: (1) the one-day credit for one day served provided for in subsection (2), and (2) the 90-day credit for meritorious service provided for in subsection (3).
The Director and the State's Attorneys disagree on the interpretation to be placed on the 90-day limitation in subsection (3). The Director contends that it applies only to the amount of credit for meritorious service that he can award a prisoner at any one time while the State's Attorneys contend that it prevents the Director from granting more than an accumulative total of 90 days' credit for meritorious service to an individual prisoner over the period of his incarceration. The Director incorporated his interpretation of the statute into the Administrative Regulations of the Department of Corrections (see Admin. Regs. Dept. Corr. sec. 864(II)(E)), and made it a regular practice of the Department to grant individual prisoners more than one award of 90 days. The State's Attorneys observe that prisoners have received as many as 313 days' credit for meritorious service.
After hearing oral arguments in this case on July 12, 1983, we entered the following order:
"The Court holds, contrary to the Director's contention, that the statute in question (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 1003-6-3(a)(3)) confers authority on the Director to grant no more than a total of 90 days additional good conduct credit for meritorious service; therefore, the writ is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all pending proceedings in this case are stayed until further order of this Court.
A written opinion will follow."
We clarified this order on July 15, 1983, by the following ...