State Jail Diligent Participation Credit Overhaul | State Jail Good Time Credit

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State Jail Diligent Participation Credit

Texas currently has 19 state jails housing approximately 9,500 state-jail offenders. Under Penal Code Section 12.35, a person serving time for a state-jail felony may be punished not more than 2 years but not less than 180 days with a fine of up to $10,000. Although the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure does not permit those serving time in state jail to earn credit for good conduct, it is possible for inmates to be awarded “diligent participation credit.”

What is Diligent Participation Credit in State Jail?

Diligent participation includes “active involvement in a work program, successful completion of an educational, vocational, or treatment program, or progress toward successful completion of such a program if the progress was interrupted by illness, injury, or another circumstance outside of a participant’s control.”

Diligent Participation Credit Overhaul

The method of receiving diligent participation credit has recently changed. In the past, many individuals participating in these programs in the past were not receiving credit for their time due to a process that overburdened the courts. Prior to September 1, 2015, the process required the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to a report an inmate’s participation to be sent to the judge of the sentencing court. The court would then have to review the record and make a decision to decided to approve or deny the credits.

Not only was this a time-consuming process, in 56% of the cases the applications would never receive a response at all. Judges received hundreds of requests and were unable to devote the necessary time to reviewing these applications. Although nearly 3 out of 4 applications that received a response were approved, too many applications never received a response and the inmates received no credit for their participation in these programs.

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The Effect of House Bill 1546 on Diligent Participation Credit

The legislature recognized the problem and passed House Bill 1546 as a remedy.

Effective September 1, 2015, the method to obtain Diligent Participation Credit is as follows: Once a defendant is convicted of a state jail felony, the judge will make a finding and enter into the judgment “whether the person is presumptively entitled to diligent participation credit.” See Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 42.0119. If the person is presumptively entitled, TDCJ will be required to record information detailing the number of days the inmate diligently participated in the appropriate programs and credit the time against the inmate’s sentence. As in the past, inmates will be unable to earn diligent participation credits for time under disciplinary status.

The passing of HB 1546 means that inmates in state jails have real incentives to participate in educational, vocational, treatment, and work programs. In too many cases in the past, obtaining Diligent Participation Credit took equal parts hard work and good luck. Now credit is awarded as it is earned.

According to the fiscal note, this bill has the potential to save Texas $81.3 million in 2016-2017, because inmates will be serving less time in state jails. HB 1546 took effect on September 1, 2015 and applies to those confined in a state jail for an offense committed on or after that date.

Additional Sources:

House Research Organization, Bill Analysis, Tex. H.B. 1546, 84th Leg., R.S. (2015)

Senate Research Center, Bill Analysis, Tex. H.B. 1546, 84th Leg., R.S. (2015).

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