In Texas there is an offence called a State Jail Felony. A person convicted of a State Jail Felony is not eligible for parole or good time credit, instead they are required to serve every day of their sentence. However, In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2659 which offers some jail felony offenders Diligent Participation Credit by their sentencing judge. This means a state jail felony offender can get an early release.
What is Diligent Participation Credit?
Diligent Participation Credit is time credit awarded to state jail felony offenders for their active participation in certain programs. These programs include:
- The successful completion of an educational, vocational, or treatment program.
- Progress toward successful completion of an educational, vocational, or treatment program that was interrupted by an illness or injury.
- Active involvement in a work program.
Who can Receive Diligent Participation Credit?
Most state jail felony offenders who were convicted on or after September 1, 2011 can earn Diligent Participation Credit but it must be awarded by their sentencing judge.
For offenders convicted of a state jail felony on or after or September 1, 2015, the judge can award diligent participation credit at the time of sentencing. Credits will be awarded to the offender on the 45th day prior to serving 80% of their sentence.
The following offenders are not eligible for diligent participation credit:
- Offenders assigned to state jail level 4 (J4) custody, state jail level 5 (J5) custody, solitary confinement, or administrative segregation custody;
- Offenders who refuse to work, not attend school or complete an assignment, or refuse to participate in a program;
- Offenders who receive disciplinary actions while incarcerated
- Offenders convicted of a state jail felony prior to September 1, 2011
How Many Credits Can an Offender Earn?
TDCJ will record one day of credit for each day of participation up to a maximum of 73 days for each year of the sentence.
It is important to note the participation credit is awarded by the sentencing judge. The sentencing judge is not required to grant the offender any participation credits.
When Are Participation Credits Awarded?
For offenders convicted on or after September 1, 2011, TDCJ will provide the sentencing judge of the number of days of diligent participation. The credits are awarded no later than 30 days prior to the offender completing 80% of the offender’s sentence. It is important to note that credits are awarded towards the end of the offender’s sentence. Unfortunately, not all judges have the time or resource to enter the credits so many state jail felony offenders are missing out on their credits. Since this method was time consuming, the Texas legislature changed the process beginning September 1, 2015.
For offenders convicted on or after September 1, 2015, the sentencing judge can automatically award the offender participation credits. This means the participation credits are awarded to the offender at the beginning of his or her sentence. Inmates can still have credits removed for disciplinary issues.
No participation credits are awarded to offenders convicted prior to September 1, 2011.