California law has given some form of credits for good behavior to incarcerated people for decades. Proposition 57, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016, gave the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) the authority to adopt regulations to provide additional opportunities for incarcerated people to receive these Good Conduct Credits.
On May 1, 2021, the department began the implementation of several changes to GCC
credit-earning for eligible incarcerated people to further incentivize participation in rehabilitative and educational opportunities, while also streamlining the credit calculation process. This is following the approval of emergency regulations by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
Effective May 1, 2021, CDCR increased the credit-earning rate of GCCs for people convicted of violent crimes under Penal Code 667.5(c), as well as non-violent second and thirds strikers. See chart below:
|Conviction Type||Previous Rate||New Rate (as of May 1, 2021)|
|Violent (PC 667.5(c))||20% (1 day of credit for every 4 days served)||33.3% (1 day of credit for every 2 days served)|
|Non-violent Second Striker||33.3% (1 day of credit for every 2 days served)||50% (1 day of credit for every 1 day served)|
|Non-violent Third Striker||33.3% (1 day of credit for every 2 days served)||50% (1 day of credit for every 1 day served)|
Additionally, CDCR has created the new Minimum Security Credit (MSC) for incarcerated people assigned to or otherwise eligible for minimum custody and Work Group (WG) M. This also includes those serving time in a fire camp, whether they are part of a fire crew or support crew (WG M and F). All incarcerated people assigned to or otherwise eligible for minimum custody and WGs M or F will be awarded 30 days of credit for every 30 continuous days served.
Incarcerated people currently assigned to WG F or M may see their Earliest Possible Release Date (EPRD) impacted as they are converted to the MSC earning program. With the ability to earn MSC for successfully programming for every 30 continuous days served in WG F or M, their release date should result in being similar to what it was before the change, unless their GCC credit rate has also changed. Those assigned to WG M who previously did not have their GCC rate impacted will now be eligible to earn MSC. Those with a violent conviction will now have the ability to earn MSC at the same credit rate of those with a nonviolent or Second Strike conviction.
|Workgroup||Definition/Eligibility Criteria||MSC Credit Earning Rate (May 1, 2021)|
|F||Minimum custody and firefighting or non-firefighting conservation camp individual||30 day credit award after 30 days of continuous custody served|
|M||Minimum custody or otherwise eligible for minimum custody||30 day credit award after 30 days of continuous custody served|
This is not an early release program, and these changes do not result in the automatic release of any incarcerated person. The application of credits may advance an incarcerated person’s release date or parole hearing eligibility date; however, release date restrictions will still be in effect.
Under no circumstance will someone be awarded credit that advances their release date to less than 15 calendar days from the date of the credit award. For incarcerated people whose crime mandates pre-release notification to law enforcement, their release date shall not be advanced to a date less than 45 or 60 days from the date the credit award is entered into the department’s information technology system.
CDCR will follow normal processes to notify registered victims of a person’s release date. Learn more at https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/victim-services/application/.
In accordance with state law, all incarcerated people except those serving life without the possibility of parole or those sentenced to death are eligible to receive credits. These specific credit changes impact all individuals convicted of violent crimes under Penal Code 667.5(c), those convicted of nonviolent crimes under California’s Three Strikes law, and those eligible for minimum custody and fire camp placement. All credits are being applied prospectively, meaning the new credit-earning will be applied from May 1, 2021, forward.
In order to transition to the new system, Case Records staff must enter every incarcerated person’s individual information into a new calculation system, beginning with people whose release dates are soonest. While the process has already begun per adoption of the emergency regulations, it is expected to take several months to complete. As part of this process, staff will ensure that each release date is accurate in accordance with these credit-earning changes and state law. Each individual will be notified of their new calculation.
Incarcerated people convicted of nonviolent crimes who are assigned to a fire camp to be part of a fire crew, and who were previously earning the “two-for-one,” or 66.6% credit, will see a change in their release date as their information is updated into the new calculation system. Instead of projecting their release date based on fire camp assignment, their date will be calculated using their GCC earning rate of 50%. With the ability to earn MSC for successfully programming for every 30 continuous days, their release date should result in being similar to the previous “two-for-one.”
Incarcerated people convicted of violent crimes who are assigned to a fire camp to be part of a fire crew, and who were previously earning the “day for day” credit, or 50% credit, will see a change in their release date as their information is updated into the new calculation system. Instead of projecting their release date based on fire camp assignment, their date will be calculated using their GCC earning rate of 33.3%. With the ability to earn MSC for successfully programming for every 30 continuous days and by receiving the credit change from 20% to 33.3%, their release date will result in a sooner release date.
However, it is important to note that for every 30 days they serve continuously in W G F, they will also receive the 30-day MSC. They will additionally be notified every time it is applied.
For further incentive, upon parole or discharge, those who have successfully participated in a conservation camp program as an incarcerated fire crew member may be eligible for expungement of the sentence they were serving at the time of placement in the conservation camp program pursuant to current law (AB 2147).
No. GCC and other programming credits (Rehabilitative Achievement Credits, Milestone Completion Credits, Educational Merit Credits) currently apply toward an incarcerated person’s EPRD for determinate sentences and Minimum Eligible Parole Date (MEPD) for indeterminate sentences. These changes will only apply to the EPRD and MEPD, and these changes do not impact eligibility for Elderly Parole, Nonviolent Parole, or Youth Offender Parole.
There are several types of credits incarcerated people earn in California, including Milestone Completion Credits (MCC) for successful completion of approved programs; Rehabilitative Achievement Credits (RAC) for completion of approved self-help and public service activities; Educational Merit Credits (EMC) for completion of approved academic programs; and Extraordinary Conduct Credits (ECC) for performing heroic acts or providing exceptional assistance in maintaining safety and security.
Prior to May 1, 2021, MCC and RAC could be lost as a result of rules violations and were not restorable. Beginning May 1, 2021, all credits may be forfeited due to a credit loss in excess of available GCC (i.e. someone who receives a rules violation and does not have GCC equal or greater to the amount lost may now also lose ECC or EMC).
However, lost credits for most rules violations in the amount of 90 days or less may be restored if applicable by remaining disciplinary-free for a defined period. Allowing credits to not be permanently lost further incentivizes good behavior by allowing individuals a way out of “credit debt” by participating in approved rehabilitative and educational programs. Lost credits for rules violations in excess of 90 days are not restorable.
Proposition 57, which was approved by California voters in 2016, gave CDCR the authority to make credit changes to reduce the prison population and incentivize incarcerated people to more actively participate in rehabilitative and educational programming opportunities.
The emergency rulemaking process allows state agencies to implement urgent regulations quickly without first going through the public comment process before the regulations take (temporary) effect. The emergency rulemaking process is usually utilized to meet statutory timelines, dates imposed by a court agreement, or a department’s operational needs. In the case of the credit-earning regulations, CDCR needed a definite date to make the switch in credit earning rates and calculation methods because this is a complicated process that requires enormous Department resources and staff time, particularly from EIS and Case Records. Additionally, with the immediate implementation of credit earning regulations, the Department will implement the changes outlined in the Governor’s Budget Summary, May Revision, 2020-21, which indicated that CDCR would pursue changes to GCC to be applied prospectively.
Pursuant to Penal Code Section 5058.3, the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has the authority to certify emergency rulemaking actions that amend the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, when required by the operational needs of the Department.
Regulations adopted through the emergency rulemaking process require the same public notice, the same minimum of 45 days for public comments, and the same opportunities for public review and input prior to permanent adoption of the regulations as regulations adopted through the regular process. The difference is that emergency regulations become effective at the beginning of the process rather than at the end. Penal Code section 5058.3 authorizes CDCR to adopt emergency regulations that remain in effect for 160 days upon approval from the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). During this period, the same processes used in the regular rulemaking process are conducted.
Yes. Now that the emergency regulations are in temporary effect, the department will soon begin the public comment period. That requires a submission of the Notice of Proposed Regulations to OAL for publication in the OAL Regulatory Notice Register. After that, notices will go out to members of the public who have requested the Notice, and also to CDCR institutions for posting.
Additionally, pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act process, CDCR will submit permanent regulations for review, to include a public hearing and opportunity for public comment.