Parole -vs.- Sentence Calculation
The usual initial reaction of a victim when notified their perpetrator is eligible for parole is shock. How can that be? He/she just got there.
State law mandates inmates who committed a crime prior to April 13, 1995, must be considered for parole with these guidelines in mind: a non-dangerous offender is eligible for parole after serving 1/4 of their sentence less good time earned in prison. The eligibility is further reduced by credited time served in jail prior to sentencing. Most inmates at Montana State Prison earn 30 days per month good time. A dangerous offender must serve 1/2 of their term with the same credits for good time and jail time. Therefore, an inmate serving a ten-year term may have an eligibility date calculated as follows:
EXAMPLE: 10 years = 120 months divided by 1/4 = 30 months less 30 days per month good time = 15 months or 1 year 3 months minus 3 months jail time credit = 1 year to eligibility. NOTE: Good time also reduces discharge dates. At 30 days per month good time, an offender would complete the sentence in 5 years!
Inmates who commit crimes between April 13, 1995, and January 31, 1997, must serve 25% of the sentence to be eligible for parole. Good time and dangerous/non-dangerous designations have been removed; however, inmates will continue to receive 30 days per month good time for discharge purposes.
For inmates who commit crimes after January 31, 1997, parole eligibility will be calculated at 25% of the sentence and inmates will have to serve 100% of a sentence to discharge. Thus on a 10 year term, an inmate will serve:
EXAMPLE: 10 years = 120 months divided by 1/4 = 30 months to parole eligibility; 120 months to discharge whether in prison or on parole.
The Parole Board does not set initial parole eligibility dates. These dates are calculated by prison Records in accordance with State law. Subsequent appearances by an inmate denied parole at the initial hearing are set by the Board. Inmates denied parole for more than one year may be placed on annual or biennial review status. These inmates do not appear before the Board. Their progress and conduct is administratively reviewed to determine if an appearance is warranted.