GOOD TIME: The Math Behind the Problem

I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve been confused about how the Kitsap County jail was miscalculating “good time” for inmates.

I have to admit that it took me a number of times to go over the math and get it right myself. But there is an eventual “light bulb” moment that takes place (I promise).

I got an email from reader Cary Edwards this morning. Cary, too, had the same issues I did when I learned about the error.

“I have read your story, ‘good time – bad math’, three times. I am still unclear on why kitsap county jails math was wrong,” he wrote.

So I wrote back with my best explanation.

“I completely understand how you’re confused by the math. I was too, and had to go over it dozens of times.

So, here’s the best explanation I can give you.

Keep in mind that he’s not done with his sentence. He has more time to serve in a state prison.

If a judge had sentenced him to 120 days, the jail would indeed divide that by three to get his “good time.” That means he’d serve 80 days, with 40 days of good time.

But here’s the deal: he’s already done 120 days.

So he needs to get an additional third to get his credit for time off for good behavior. How is that calculated?

By dividing by half, interestingly. But let’s come back to that in a moment.

Let’s say a judge gave someone an 180 day sentence. And they earned their full 1/3 off for good behavior. Divide 180 by 3, and you get 60. So the person would serve 120 days and be credited for 60 days of good time.

Now, if he’d done 120 days already, and had to go off to DOC prison to do more time, that means he’d get that additional third off (60).

To get to that amount mathematically, you would actually take 120 and divided by two (not three) which would give you 60 days of good time — the correct amount.

Clear?”

I also heard from reader Gerry Warren, who did get the math. In fact, he provides an alternative in calculating it:

“Another way to calculate it is to times it by 1.5

Joe serves 15 days. He is credited for good behavior using the 1/3rd rule

15 is 66.66666% of what number? Answer: 22.5

22.5 X .666666 = 15. 15 times what equals 22.5? Answer 1.5. 22.5 divided by 15 = 1.5

Robert Pierce’s 213 days served: 213 X 1.5 = 319.5

Whatever fraction or percentage you use you can figure out the constant for that fraction or percentage (e.g. 1.5 for 1/3)”

I’d like to hear back from others about how they handled the math. Was it confusing? Did it make sense?

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