ACLU of West Virginia Calls for Fundamental Fairness in Implementing State Prisons' 'Good Behavior' Policy

April 9, 2003 12:00 am

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CHARLESTON, WV–The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia today argued before the state Supreme Court that prison officials here violated the due process rights of an inmate when they denied him the possibility of earning “good time” credit that could reduce his sentence.

The ACLU lawsuit, Randy Bailey v. State of West Virginia, Division of Corrections et al., was filed on behalf of Randy Bailey, an inmate at Huttonsville Correctional Center who is serving a one-to-three year sentence for a third DUI offense. The ACLU filed the lawsuit after administrative remedies within the Division of Corrections proved unsuccessful.

“Prison officials should recognize that taking away unearned good time removes the main incentive our client has to improve his behavior,” said Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of the ACLU of West Virginia. “Most importantly though, the denial of future good-time credit to which he is entitled, deprives our client of his liberty interest as protected by the Due Process Clause of the West Virginia Constitution.”

According to the ACLU, Bailey had accrued 156 days of good time credit in both the Denmar and Huttonsville prisons when he was disciplined by prison authorities for bad behavior and had his good time reduced by 18 months. This punishment amounted to not only the 156 days of earned good time but also all the remaining unearned good time that could be granted over the duration of his sentence.

Under the West Virginia statute, an inmate is rewarded with one day of good time credit that is subtracted from his or her maximum sentence for each day of good behavior, according to Chris Cooper, an ACLU of West Virginia cooperating attorney who argued today’s case. For misconduct, the statute provides that “any part or all of the good time which has been granted to such inmate? may be forfeited and revoked by the warden or superintendent of the institution in which the violation occurred.”

“The Division of Corrections clearly violated the statute that limits the amount of good time that may be revoked to the amount that the inmate has earned,” said Cooper.

The ACLU is seeking a court order that immediately restores all good time credits improperly revoked from Bailey and seeks the appointment of a special magistrate to investigate whether or not the Division of Corrections improperly revoked credits from other inmates.

“The relationship between fair procedures and liberty is a crucial one,” said Schneider. “Justice William O. Douglas articulated this principle well when he said, ‘It is procedure that spells much of the difference between rule of law and rule by whim and caprice.'”

Cooper and Jason Huber served as cooperating attorneys in the case. A copy of the complaint filed in this case is available online at: /node/35147

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