Category Archives: ‘Good Time’ Policy

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.


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?

GOOD TIME: The Jail’s Policy and the Supreme Court’s 1993 Decision

To take a look at the Kitsap County jail’s old and updated policies on earned release time, scroll below.

I have also posted the landmark ‘good time’ decision by the Washington Supreme Court that directs how Department of Corrections and the local jails work to calculate good time.

Kitsap County’s old and revised ‘good time’ policies

1993 Supreme Court Decision: In Re: Williams

GOOD TIME: ‘I Just Want It Fixed’

Mail from inmates at county jails and state and federal prisons is common in newsrooms, as those on the inside look to reporters to help with legal battles or civil rights violations.

The same is true here at the Kitsap Sun. We review such mail — honestly, word for word — to see if there’s an injustice being done, however big or small. In many cases, the complaints don’t quite add up. In some, a quick phone call or email to the right person is all that’s needed. But sometimes, an inmate raises a concern that calls on us to tell a story.

In May, I got such a letter. His name was Robert “Doug” Pierce, who you can read about in Sunday’s paper or online here. The Kitsap County jail had miscalculated his time off for good behavior — and he was right.

“I just want it fixed so I can come home to my family after my debt is paid to society in full,” Pierce wrote in his letter.

Pierce’s discovery was not only overlooked at the jail and lawyers in the system but at the Department of Corrections — and it set the stage for a change in policy at the Kitsap County jail.

In doing the story, I wanted to examine all aspects of how good time is awarded. Thus, what you’ll find is an explanation of how it works at all levels — federal, state and each of the 39 county jails — and why it is administered in the first place. That included working with and submitting records requests to each of the state’s 37 jails.

We also stumbled upon another interesting facet: that the state’s sunseting of a 50 percent off provision for good time went virtually unnoticed by anyone outside the system.

For the results of our work, click here.