Attorney General: Honorable Larry R. Meachum, Department of Correction, 1994-031 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

November 23, 1994

Honorable Larry R. Meachum
Department of Correction
340 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Commissioner Meachum:

We are in receipt of your letter of June 22, 1994 wherein you call our attention to P.A. 93-219, Sec. 10. In your letter you seek our advice as to what extent, if any, the provisions of this section affect the computation of discharge dates for sentences subject to this statute.

Section 10 of this Act provides as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provision of the general statutes, any person convicted of a crime committed on or after October 1, 1994, shall be subject to supervision by personnel of the department of correction or the board of parole until the expiration of the maximum term or terms for which he was sentenced. Underlining added.

For reasons amplified below, it is our opinion that with regard only to sentences imposed for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994, the maximum term is not reducible by so-called "good-time" credits which are earned during either pre or post sentence confinement.

As you know, the effective expiration date or the date upon which inmates are discharged from your custody has been determined, in part, by the amount of "good-time" which the inmate earns both prior to and after sentencing. "Good-time" credits following sentencing are provided for by Conn. Gen. Stat.  18-7a and its predecessors, as well as Sections 18-98a and 18-98b. Such credits prior to sentencing are authorized by Conn. Gen. Stat.  18-98c and 18-98d.

The function of good time credits has been defined in such cases as Holmquist v. Manson, 168 Conn. 389, 393-94, 361 A.2d 971 (1975) and Laden v. Warden, Connecticut Correctional Institution, Sommers, 169 Conn. 540, 541, 363 A.2d 1063 (1975) as follows:

"good time" is a commutation of a sentence, affecting an inmate's parole and discharge dates, thereby serving an important rehabilitative function by allowing an inmate the opportunity to earn an earlier release for himself. Holmquist at 393.

In line with these statutes and the cases construing them, therefore, good time credits both pre and post sentencing have been calculated into sentence computation so as to reduce the length of time an inmate could be held in custody and to accelerate an inmate's discharge from custody. In considering the provisions of Section 10 in the light of Holmquist and Laden, supra, we note that "[t]he legislature is presumed to be aware of the interpretation that courts have placed on existing legislation ...." Scheyd v. Bezrucik, 205 Conn. 495, 506, 535 A.2d 793 (1987). In deference to this admonition on statutory construction, we can perceive no other conclusion than that the portion of Section 10 which provides that persons who are sentenced for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994 "shall be subject to supervision by personnel of the department of correction or the board of parole until the expiration of the maximum term or terms for which he was sentenced," has the effect of eliminating the impact that good time credits heretofore have had in reducing length of sentence and accelerating discharge. The consequence of the provisions of Section 10 is that with regard to sentences within its provision, the inmate so sentenced must remain in custody for the full maximum and unreduced term.

In short, a plain reading of the statute compels a construction which recognizes that the Legislature, in enacting Section 10, intended to eliminate the effect of good time, on maximum term, as enunciated by the Court in Holmquist and Laden. Although we believe that the language of Section 10 is sufficiently clear so as to render unnecessary any search of legislative history, Nichols v. Warren, 209 Conn. 191, 196, 550 A.2d 309 (1988), nevertheless such a review is instructive. Nichols 209 Conn. at 198.

In commenting upon this section, a co-sponsor in the House observed that:

it requires parole supervision for parolees for the entire term of the sentence that had been imposed by the court. Under current law, parolees come off parole supervision at the time they max out on their sentence, which in most cases, is two-thirds of the original sentence that was imposed. So in essence, this change will maintain people on parole for the full, in the case of a ten year sentence, for the full ten years rather than for just two or three years after their release maybe only six years of total supervision both in the facility and outside the facility and this has the obvious benefit of keeping people under supervision with the opportunity to return them immediately to prison based on a violation for the full term of the original sentence imposed.

See comments of Rep. Lawlor, House Proceedings, Vol. 36, Part 22, pp. 007645-46, 1993 Session. As a sponsor of the legislation the statements of Representative Lawlor provide a strong indication of legislative intent. State v. Golino, 201 Conn. 435, 445 (1986).

In view of the clear language of Section 10, as well as the understanding of the legislature as reflected in the comments of Representative Lawlor, we conclude that the maximum terms of sentences imposed for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1994 are not reducible by good time credits. For such crimes, the entire sentence must be served under the supervision of the Department of Correction or the Board of Parole. If you have any further inquiries on these issues, we shall be pleased to respond.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL RB/gab Attach.


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