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Early Release Credit Not Available to Prisoners with ‘Crimes Against Persons’ Convictions

Early Release Credit Not Available to Prisoners with "Crimes Against Persons" Convictions

While incarcerated, former Washington State prisoner Roosevelt Silas claimed a constitutional violation for equal treatment under the law when his application for a newly-enacted 50% earned early release credit was denied by the Department of Corrections (DOC) because he had a prior misdemeanor domestic violence charge. The court dismissed his personal restraint petition and the dismissal was upheld on appeal.

In 1995, Silas pled guilty to two charges: assault and violation of a no contact order. In 2003, while serving time for a 2000 drug conviction, he applied for the early release credit. The statute disallows the credit for prisoners with "crimes against persons" convictions as defined in RCW 9.94A.411(2)(a) of the Sentence Reform Act (SRA). Silas argued that only felonies and not misdemeanors should apply, as other prisoners with misdemeanors convictions were allowed the credit. He appealed his petition's denial and was appointed counsel. In 2004, the Division II Appellate Court decided In re Personal Restraint of Washington, 125 Wn. App. 506, 106 P.3d 763 (Wash.App.Div. 2, 2004), review denied, 115 P.3d 989 (2004), a case involving a similar issue, and Silas and the DOC were ordered to file supplemental briefs addressing the Washington ruling. However, Silas had since been released from prison.

In a case of first impression, the Division I Appellate Court held that RCW 9.94A. 728(l)(b)(ii)(c)(III) plainly demands denial of the credit under the SRA. The appeals court also held that when a no contact order is violated it evidences that the offender will not respect a court order, which is what distinguishes such offenders from other misdemeanors and justifies the denial of the early release credit. See: In re Personal Restraint of Silas, 135 Wash.App. 564, 145 P.3d 1219 (Wash.App.Div. 1, 2006).

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Related legal case

In re Personal Restraint of Silas