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Retroactive Kansas Good Time Recalculation Unlawful

In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals for the State of Kansas held that the changes in the Kansas prison system's regulations interpreting the application of good time credits toward a prisoner's conditional release date could not be applied retroactively to offenses which occurred prior to the new regulations' promulgation.

Mark Steltzlen, a Kansas prisoner, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the trial court after a change in Department of Corrections (DOC) regulations moved his conditional release date (CRD) forward 63 months.

Steltzlen was sentenced to 15 to 20 years. Under Kansas law, K.S.A. 22-3725 (1996 Supp.) his good time credits were subtracted from his minimum sentence to set a parole eligibility date (PED) and subtracted from his maximum sentence to establish a CRD. Under the law in effect at the time of his offense, good time forfeited in disciplinary actions prior to his PED could only be subtracted from his PED. Forfeitures occurring after his PED would be subtracted from his CRD.

Under the rules and law in effect at the time of the offense, CRDs were set at the start of the sentence by presuming a prisoner would receive all the good time he could possibly earn. The only way to change the CRD was to forfeit good time after the PED. The PED, by contrast, was changed at each review. The prisoner started out with a PED equal to the minimum sentence. At each review period, the PED would be reduced by the amount of good time earned during that period.

On January 3, 1995, DOC changed the rule on setting CEDs. Under the revised K.A.R. 44-6-142, the good time credited toward conditional release was calculated under an earned system. Forfeitures and withholdings of good time were applied to the CRD regardless of whether they occurred prior to the prisoner's PED.

Prior to his PED, Seltzen forfeited 90 days of good time. He was also awarded only part of the maximum good time credits for that review period, resulting in the withholding of another 30 days good time. Both were applied to his CRD. Furthermore, his CRD was recalculated so that it did not include any unearned good time. This moved his CRD forward 63 months.

The Kansas Court of Appeals held that, although the DOC's interpretation of the change in the rules governing good time calculations were lawful, pursuant to Lynce v. Mathis, 117 S.Ct. 891 (1997), they could not be applied retroactively to change the CRD of a prisoner whose offense occurred prior to the change in the rule. The intent of the rule change didn't matter, what counted was its effect of increasing Steltzlen's period of incarceration. See: Steltzlen v. McKune, No. 77,897 (Kansas Court of Appeals 9-5-97, unpublished).

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Related legal case

Steltzen v. McKune

944 P.2d 197 (Table)

(Pursuant to Kansas Supreme Court Rule 7.04(f), unpublished opinions are not precedential and are not favored for citation. They may be cited for persuasive authority on a material issue not addressed by a published Kansas appellate court opinion.)

Court of Appeals of Kansas.




NO. 77,897

Sept 05, 1997

Appeal From: Leavenworth


944 P.2d 197 (Table)