PRISON TERMS AND PAROLES ‑- PRISONER SERVING LIFE SENTENCE ‑- MINIMUM DURATION OF CONFINEMENT ‑- GOOD TIME CREDITS
A prisoner under a mandatory life sentence other than an habitual criminal may become eligible to be considered for parole upon serving 2/3 of the required statutory twenty consecutive years in good behavior.
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May 17, 1955
Honorable Norman S. Hayner
Board of Prison Terms and Paroles
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 77
In your letter of April 14, 1955, you ask our opinion upon the following question.
"Can the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles consider for parole a person who is serving a mandatory life sentence under RCW 9.95.115 after he has served 13 years and 4 months in continual confinement?"
Our answer is in the affirmative.
RCW 9.95.115 provides:
"The board of prison terms and paroles is hereby granted authority to parole any person sentenced to the penitentiary or the reformatory, under a mandatory life sentence, who has been continuously confined therein for a period of [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] twenty consecutive years less earned good time: * * *."
The apparent difficulty caused by this statute is that the board does not fix a minimum term so that the provisions of RCW 9.95.110 allowing up to 1/3 good time credit of the minimum term fixed by the board would readily apply.
It is the understanding of the writer that it is the present policy of the board where it has fixed a minimum sentence that upon service of 2/3 of such minimum term in good behavior the board adopts and gives effect to the 1/3 good time credit and thereby making the prisoner eligible to be considered for parole. Or, to put it another way, good time credits can be earned by the inmate by serving 2/3 of the minimum term in good behavior. We see no reason why this policy should not apply to a prisoner serving a mandatory life sentence under the provisions of RCW 9.95.115.
RCW 9.95.070 provides that every prisoner who serves his term in good behavior can be accorded good time credits by the board. This, of necessity, includes those prisoners under the provisions of RCW 9.95.115. The method by which good time credits are earned by the prisoner and granted by the board should be uniform.
"In construing a statute it is necessary to consider the whole act and all other law relating thereto and if possible give effect to it in all its parts.
"Furthermore, that construction should be favored which grants equality and which is against restrictions of liberty." (Dowd v. Johnston, 47 N.E. (2d) 976)
The following comparison is offered to show how this equality should be applied. Consider an habitual criminal serving a mandatory life term whose duration of confinement has been fixed at the statutory minimum by the board, and a prisoner under mandatory life sentence whose term falls under the provisions of RCW 9.95.115. In both instances a mandatory maximum of life [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] is imposed. In both instances a minimum must be served; one for a statutory minimum of fifteen years fixed by the board and one for twenty years fixed by the statute. Both prisoners may earn good time credits. For both they become effective upon adoption by the board. If it is the policy of the board to allow adoption of 1/3 good time credits upon serving 2/3 of the minimum in good behavior, the habitual criminal becomes eligibleto be considered for parole in ten years since 2/3 of the fifteen year minimum amounts to ten years. By the same policy a prisoner serving the statutory minimum of twenty years fixed by statute could be made eligibleto be considered for parole after service of thirteen years and four months in good behavior.
We conclude therefore that upon the basis of the policy used by the board and the provisions of RCW 9.95.115 a prisoner serving a mandatory life sentence can be made eligible to be considered for parole after serving thirteen years and four months in continual confinement and in good behavior.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General