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Baker v. Dep't of Corrections





Original action for mandamus.


This original action is brought by plaintiff, Ronald Baker, pursuant to our Rule 381 (87 Ill.2d R. 381). The plaintiff is presently incarcerated at the Centralia Correctional Center. He seeks writs of mandamus, habeas corpus or, alternatively, a supervisory order to compel Arthur Cieslik, judge of the circuit court of Cook County, to credit him with the full amount of meritorious-service credits that he was awarded prior to July 13, 1983. Plaintiff also requests this court to direct Michael P. Lane, Director of the Department of Corrections, and Howard Peters, warden of the Centralia Correctional Center, to acknowledge the meritorious-service credits which were previously awarded. He contends that, if these acts are done, he will be entitled to immediate release.

The following sequence of relevant facts are not disputed by the parties. On June 10, 1981, the plaintiff was convicted of robbery and sentenced to six years in prison. This conviction was reversed by the appellate court on December 6, 1982, and the cause was remanded for a new trial. (110 Ill. App.3d 1015.) On January 5, 1983, the State's petition for rehearing was denied. Thereafter, the State filed a petition for leave to appeal with this court (87 Ill.2d R. 315(a)), and the mandate of the appellate court was stayed during the pendency of the State's petition.

In the meantime, on February 23, 1983, plaintiff was released from the Centralia Correctional Center as a result of both accumulated day-for-day good-conduct credits (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 1003-6-3(a)(2)) and meritorious-service credits earned (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 1003-6-3(a)(3)). These credits are expressly authorized by the legislature to provide for the early release of prisoners based on good conduct. Pursuant to section 3-6-3(a)(2), an inmate is to receive one day of good-conduct credit for each day of confinement in prison for all felonies, other than where a sentence of natural life has been imposed. Each day of good conduct reduces by one day the period of incarceration set by the court. In addition, under section 3-6-3(a)(3), the Director may also award credit for meritorious service in specific instances. It is alleged in the complaint and supporting documents that plaintiff had accumulated 671 days of day-for-day good-conduct credits and had been credited with 465 days for meritorious service.

Following plaintiff's release, this court denied the State's petition for leave to appeal. Accordingly, on May 6, 1983, the mandate of the appellate court, remanding the cause for a new trial, was entered.

In the interim, between remandment and retrial, our decision in Lane v. Sklodowski (1983), 97 Ill.2d 311, was announced. In Lane, the court held that awards for meritorious service 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)) could not exceed a total of 90 days. (97 Ill.2d 311, 320.) It was also decided that this holding should be given prospective application. As such, credits that the Director awarded prior to July 13, 1983, were to be honored. 97 Ill.2d 311, 320.

The plaintiff was subsequently retried and again convicted of robbery. On June 13, 1984, Judge Cieslik sentenced him to a term of seven years for this offense. The increased sentence was attributable to the fact that following plaintiff's initial conviction he was convicted of another offense. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 1005-5-4.) The court further ordered that plaintiff was to receive credit for 671 days of "statutory good time" and 90 days of "compensatory good time" accumulated during the serving of his initial sentence. Although the court mistakenly designated the 90 days as "compensatory good time," the record clearly demonstrates that the court was referring to a portion of the meritorious-service credits plaintiff had previously been awarded.

On June 27, 1984, plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal from this second conviction. This appeal is still pending in the appellate court, although plaintiff, at this time, has yet to file his brief.

By letter dated June 29, 1984, the Department of Correction's legal counsel informed Judge Cieslik that compensatory good time had been abolished prior to the commission of plaintiff's original offense. Thus, contrary to the mittimus which issued, plaintiff was not eligible to receive nor did he receive any compensatory good time during the service of his initial sentence. Accordingly, the Department recommended that the court issue an amended mittimus deleting the order crediting plaintiff with 90 days compensatory good time. This corrected mittimus, backdated to June 13, 1984, was issued. According to its terms, plaintiff would serve: "Seven (7) years, with 671 days credit to be applied to sentence."

The record further reveals that on September 21, 1984, the Department of Corrections once again requested clarification regarding the court's order of commitment. In a letter addressed to the assistant State's Attorney of record, the Department requested that the mittimus be amended to reflect the 90 days' credit as meritorious good time. The Department also requested that the amended mittimus reflect Judge Cieslik's specific intent to deny plaintiff all meritorious good time in excess of 90 days.

Thereafter, on September 26, 1984, Judge Cieslik corrected the mittimus to reflect the 90 days' credit for meritorious service, as well as the 671 days' credit discussed above. The amended mittimus further provided: "meritorious good time in excess of the 90 days which may previously have been awarded is specifically denied [and] shall not be credited towards this term of imprisonment."

On plaintiff's motion, the court held a hearing on October 25, 1984, to reconsider its order of commitment. At that time, counsel for plaintiff requested that the court reinstate the amount of meritorious-service credits which plaintiff had been awarded prior to July of 1983. The court declined to do so, however, on the basis that the 90-day ceiling on awards of meritorious good time, as announced in Lane, was to be given prospective effect. Since the plaintiff was retried, convicted, and resentenced after the Lane decision, the court believed that it had acted properly in limiting the amount of meritorious good time to 90 days.

The primary issue presented for our consideration is whether prospective application of Lane required the court, at the second sentencing hearing, to disallow plaintiff all previously earned meritorious-service credits in excess of 90 days. Before reaching this issue, however, we must first address the contention, raised by Judge ...

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