How Much Time Can You Get Off for Good Behavior in Arizona?

Truth-in-Sentencing Laws took effect in 1993 in the state of Arizona. This revised the existing Criminal Code and allows the state to incorporate good behavior when considering the release of convicted criminals. This includes “time off” for good behavior. A criminal must still serve up to 85 percent of their time behind bars, but good behavior allows for 15 percent time off. We will discuss the “time off for good behavior” reasoning in Arizona here.

What is Good Behavior?

If a person is convicted of their first felony, they might have the chance to take up to 15 percent off of their prison sentence for good behavior and be released early. This only applies to convictions with non-violent factors and non-aggravated elements. The criminal must serve up to 300 days for every year they were sentenced to prison. For crimes that do not involve a first felony or good behavior, however, the person may be forced to serve their entire prison sentence no matter how non-violent their crime was.

If a person has been convicted of a dangerous felony, such as a crime against a child, one that includes violence, or other aggravating factors, they must serve their entire sentence even if it is their first felony. There is no good behavior rule that applies when it comes to dangerous felonies in Arizona.

What is Early Release?

The same rules generally apply for early release and for good behavior in Arizona. If a person is convicted of a non-violent crime, they must serve 85 percent of their sentence. At the time of early release, the prisoner might still need to process through probation or parole, depending upon the situation. Community supervision is another possibility with fewer restrictions than standard probation.

Early release is obtained through the inmate receiving credits for certain activity and actions they do while in prison. The person must not be a threat to the victim or to society. The person must participate in recommended work within and outside of the prison, as well as in treatment programs that are recommended (such as for drug and alcohol). If the prisoner receives consistent, favorable evaluations within the prison system, this will also increase their credit towards early release. Good evaluations result from not acting out or participating in violence while in prison, as well as acting and engaging in positive programs while in prison.

Again, early release will only take 15 percent of a prisoner’s original sentence off. They must still serve 85 percent of their original sentence. Furthermore, early release is not possible for those who have been convicted of violent crimes, or for second or more felonies.

Classes of Inmates

Prisoners are classified from Class I to Class IX in terms of their eligibility to earn release credits. These classes are the inmate’s earned release classifications. When first committed to the Arizona Department of Corrections, an inmate is classified as Class II. Within 20 days of sentencing, eligible inmates must be placed within Class I by the Initial Classification Committee. To earn this reclassification and maintain standing in Class I, the inmate must begin and continue to participate in work and recommended programs, and receive satisfactory evaluations. (Classes III through IX are reserved for inmates who have committed offenses prior to Oct. 1, 1978, who are ineligible for earned release credits, who are considered dangerous, or who are under disciplinary sanctions).

A good criminal defense lawyer in Arizona can help a prison inmate to learn more about early release, whether it applies to their situation, and how to engage in positive participation in programs, activities and treatments while in prison. Contact our Arizona criminal defense team today if you or a loved one are serving prison time and would like to learn more about these conditions.