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  #1  
Old 12-02-2007, 01:41 PM
Khadaji Khadaji is offline
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Can a warden let a criminal out early?

One of the major plot points of My Name Is Earl right now is that if he helps out the warden he will get certificates to get out of jail a little earlier.

Does a warden really have this power?
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  #2  
Old 12-02-2007, 01:46 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Many do. Depends on the laws of the state, especially at the time the felon was sentenced.

Under "3 strikes" and "truth in sentencing" laws, the powers and discretions that wardens and parole boards have are now getting more and more limited.
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Old 12-02-2007, 02:16 PM
askeptic askeptic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
Many do. Depends on the laws of the state, especially at the time the felon was sentenced.

Under "3 strikes" and "truth in sentencing" laws, the powers and discretions that wardens and parole boards have are now getting more and more limited.

I think that is a little misleading. People are sentenced to either a determinant or indeterminate sentence. I think Earl takes place in California so I would answer according to California law. If a person is sentenced to two years their release date will be in one year. However the prison can increase that time by taking away good time credits but under no circumstances could a warden reduce the sentence below the one year point or increase it beyond the two year point. If the person was sentenced under three strikes they are required by law to complete 85% percent of their sentence rather than 50%. As for parole boards, if a person is sentenced to two years they never see the parole board their sentence is determined by law. A person sentenced to 25 to life must complete 25 years before they can see the parole board. While wardens can increase the minimum amount of time a person must serve based on bad behavior, they cannot reduce it by more than the state mandated formula nor can they reduce it to less than 50% of the sentence nor can they increase it beyond the original sentence.

Last edited by askeptic; 12-02-2007 at 02:18 PM..
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Old 12-02-2007, 03:10 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Picking up on askeptic's excellent post and going more generic, again with the disclaimers against changes in laws that he made:

A warden or jailer (prison vs. jail) has traditionally been granted the latitude to reduce determinate sentences by up to a given proportion "for good behavior" -- giving him a useful tool in controlling jail/prison behavior. In New York this was a maximum of one sixth of a sentence, so that someone sentenced to 180 days would be released on the morning of his 151st day, presuming he had not acted up severely enough to be deprived of "good time." This is an absolute release; all other things being equal, he walks out the door having paid his debt to society.

An indeterminate sentence, on the other hand, has a maximum and minimum specified, such as five-to-ten-years. In such a sentence, he is eligible for being considered for release on parole after having served his minimum sentence, though it's at the discretion of the parole board how much longer he must serve before actually being released. He must then, in theory, serve out the remainder of his sentence on parole, complying with the conditions of his parole, unless released from parole early, which is not an uncommon practice. In New York at the time I studied this, a sentence customarily had a minimum one third the length of the maximum. So someone sentenced to a maximum of twelve years would have a minimum sentence of four years (1/3) imposed. After four years, he would be eligible to be considered for parole -- not necessarily to be actually released on it. At the end of two thirds of his sentence (8 years in our example) he becomes eligible for release on parole unless his behavior in prison warrants holding him longer -- a decision made by the parole board in consultation with the warden and his staff. He then must theoretically serve out the remainder of his twelve-year sentence as a prisoner released on parole. But often a parole officer will recommend to the parole board that someone successfully rehabilitating himself and rejoining lawful society be granted early release -- ending his sentence altogether. Our example might serve seven years behind bars, three years and change on parole, show his rehabilitation adequately to be released from parole during the eleventh year of what was supposedly a twelve-year maximum sentence.

Bargains of the sort suggested are a variant on the "help us convict the kingpins behind the crime wave and we'll let you off easy" plea-bargain offers, used for already-convicted felons (or misdemeanants). The legal mechanism is either early parole or a commutation of the sentence -- in most states a prerogative of either the governor, the parole board, or the two acting jointly.
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  #5  
Old 12-02-2007, 03:10 PM
garygnu garygnu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by askeptic
...I think Earl takes place in California so I would answer according to California law...
Earl does not take place in any specified state. Although filmed in California, there are many references to Maryland, but the state has yet to be "officially" defined. The show takes place in a bizarro world with its own rules. It looks like wardens have just enough influence on prison terms in real life to be used for comedic plot-advancing purposes on the show.
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  #6  
Old 12-02-2007, 03:14 PM
casdave casdave is offline
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If someone is doing a term that has a minimum to a maximum, the prisoner will have to behave in an acceptable way to move to the shorter end of the term.

Acceptable can mean many things, from not testing positive for drugs, to doing loads of courses to address their behaviour, to education etc.

It normal that for such a type of jail sentence, the prisoner will be fairly unlikely to get out at the earliest chance, they may have to apply several times before it is deemed appropriate to let them go.

The decision to release them is based heavily on reports back from various prison staff, from cousellors, through to educators, through to the staff in cell blocks.

The reports from the cell block staff carry a great deal or weight, if you do not keep these folk happy, you are very unlikely to get out until much later in your jail term.

In that sense of the OP, yes a warden can certainly ensure a prisoner does less time rather than more.
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  #7  
Old 12-02-2007, 03:19 PM
askeptic askeptic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garygnu
Earl does not take place in any specified state. Although filmed in California, there are many references to Maryland, but the state has yet to be "officially" defined. The show takes place in a bizarro world with its own rules. It looks like wardens have just enough influence on prison terms in real life to be used for comedic plot-advancing purposes on the show.
You are right I don't know why I though it took place in California. My answer above only applies to California. But I would find it hard to believe a warden could reduce someones sentence. If you think about it it is a separation of powers issue. The judicial branch imposes a sentence in accordance with the laws written by the legislative branch and the warden as a part of the executive branch enforces the sentence. Regardless of the actual state involved, I doubt any state gives such power to a warden there is to great an opportunity for abuse. If anything it would be up to a parole board appointed by the governor subject to legislative creation.
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  #8  
Old 12-02-2007, 07:08 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Only a judge can impose a sentence. The governor can commute a sentence as part of his executive power. Many sentences are indeterminate - the judge will give a sentence that has a range of times. The actual amount of that sentence that is imposed is determined in New York by the Division of Parole, which is a seperate agency from the Department of Corrections. A superintendant (we don't have wardens anymore) can make recommendations to the Division of Parole under certain limits but he cannot tell them what to do. The idea in New York is that there is nobody inside the prison who has a say in the inmate's release so there is no possibility of any undue influence being made.
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  #9  
Old 12-02-2007, 07:41 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by askeptic
But I would find it hard to believe a warden could reduce someones sentence.
It used to happen all the time, within certain constraints.

In the OP's question, it was asked if the warden had the power to get an inmate out of jail a little earlier. And by ignoring, or over-ruling conduct reports, the warden could (and did, in a number of cases I am aware of) restore "good time", which had the effect of shortening the sentence.

It's a complex area, and in my state, it's also a moving target. Wisconsin's prison system operates with inmates who are incarcerated under a variety of sentencing laws. Sadly, I don't have my notes on the topic here at home, but as I recall them, they went like this (chronologically):

Old Law: Inmate had to serve at least 6 months of their time (1 year for certain crimes). For every 2 days of good behavior, 1 day is removed from their incarceration time. Warden and parole board had the most say as to how much of their sentence was served imprisoned, and how much on parole, within this framework. Net effect was that most offenders spent at least 1/3 of their sentence in prison.

New Law: Above rules still apply to most crimes, but certain crimes, such as murder, repeat violent offenders, must serve at least 2/3 of their sentence in prison. Warden and parole board still have significant input about when inmate goes out on parole.

New Law with modification: Judges could impose certain incarceration times at the time of sentencing, for certain crimes.

Truth in Sentencing (implemented 1/1/2000): Judge hands down at the sentencing the time to be spent incarcerated, and time to be spent under supervision (parole). No role for warden or parole board in these cases. Also reduced incentive to behave in prison for inmate, since good behavior will not shorten sentence.

That's how it works in my state. Mileage will vary with 49 other states, the Federal Prison system, and outlying US territories, protectorates, and assorted foreign countries.
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  #10  
Old 12-02-2007, 08:27 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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My Name is Earl takes place in Oklahoma. Rewatch episode 1.
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  #11  
Old 12-03-2007, 10:01 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is offline
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For the specific "My Name is Earl" case, the warden is married to the governor, so they can always fall back on a plan where he's just going to get her to pardon Earl/commute his sentence to keep his side of the bargain.

And I've always thought the state was indeterminate. I've never seen the first episode, but they've done a lot of work in following episodes to *not* nail down the state - even the time we saw a letter mailed to Earl, the address stopped at "Camden County".
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  #12  
Old 12-03-2007, 01:12 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo
Only a judge can impose a sentence.
I thought there were some recent Supreme Court decisions that shifted sentencing from judges to juries?
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Old 12-03-2007, 01:22 PM
jimmmy jimmmy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Si Amigo
My Name is Earl takes place in Oklahoma. Rewatch episode 1.
I'm pretty sure that's not right ... wiki kind of backs that up. The creator Greg Garcia is from this area and almost all the names of towns are Maryland towns.

You will see in the link that Garcia admits that, but has kept it's actual location vague especially ion the first 2 seasons he was regularly on the radio/TV here drumming it up in a local boy makes good way and refused (this was 2 years ago but during the show's run) to give a location - just keeping it vague saying funnily "Its a TV show it doesn't take place anywhere really".

Last edited by jimmmy; 12-03-2007 at 01:23 PM..
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  #14  
Old 12-03-2007, 01:59 PM
askeptic askeptic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto
I thought there were some recent Supreme Court decisions that shifted sentencing from judges to juries?
Juries must determine aggravating and mitigating factors but the judge still determines the sentence. Say a person has been convicted of a first degree robbery in California the potential sentence is three, four or six years. Typically the sentence should be four years. But if there are aggravating factors it can be upped to six years and if there are mitigating factors it can be reduced to three years. Before, judges got to make the determination if there were factors in aggravation now the jury must be presented with evidence in aggravation and make a finding. Judge still has the option to suspend most prison sentences and put the defendant on probation instead of sending them to prison. It is not uncommon for a person sentenced to 3 years prison to get probation with the condition that up to one year be spent in county jail. The jury has no say in the actual sentence, they are not even allowed to know what the potential sentence could be.
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  #15  
Old 12-03-2007, 02:50 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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OK, this is making me nuts. I know that there was a SCOTUS decision that moved at least death sentences out of the hands of judges. I recall some hue and cry at the time that the decision could result in all sentencing being put into the hands of the jury and the possible need to go back to every case for some great length of time.
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  #16  
Old 12-03-2007, 02:57 PM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto
OK, this is making me nuts. I know that there was a SCOTUS decision that moved at least death sentences out of the hands of judges. I recall some hue and cry at the time that the decision could result in all sentencing being put into the hands of the jury and the possible need to go back to every case for some great length of time.
I think askeptic just answered your question. There was a fairly recent Supreme Court decision (name escapes me) which said that a jury had to decide whether there was an aggravating factor which would lead to a longer sentence, not a judge. That's the only recent SCOTUS decision of this nature I can think of.

Ed
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  #17  
Old 12-03-2007, 03:17 PM
askeptic askeptic is offline
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I think you are thinking of The Blakely decision.
Which held:
Quote:
Originally Posted by SCOTUS in Blakely v. Washington
Held: Because the facts supporting petitioner’s exceptional sentence were neither admitted by petitioner nor found by a jury, the sentence violated his Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. Pp. 5—18.

(a) This case requires the Court to apply the rule of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490, that, “[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” The relevant statutory maximum for Apprendi purposes is the maximum a judge may impose based solely on the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant. Here, the judge could not have imposed the 90-month sentence based solely on the facts admitted in the guilty plea, because Washington law requires an exceptional sentence to be based on factors other than those used in computing the standard-range sentence. Petitioner’s sentence is not analogous to those upheld in McMillan v. Pennsylvania, 477 U.S. 79, and Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241, which were not greater than what state law authorized based on the verdict alone. Regardless of whether the judge’s authority to impose the enhanced sentence depends on a judge’s finding a specified fact, one of several specified facts, or any aggravating fact, it remains the case that the jury’s verdict alone does not authorize the sentence. Pp. 5—9.
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  #18  
Old 12-03-2007, 03:43 PM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmmy
I'm pretty sure that's not right ... wiki kind of backs that up. The creator Greg Garcia is from this area and almost all the names of towns are Maryland towns.

You will see in the link that Garcia admits that, but has kept it's actual location vague especially ion the first 2 seasons he was regularly on the radio/TV here drumming it up in a local boy makes good way and refused (this was 2 years ago but during the show's run) to give a location - just keeping it vague saying funnily "Its a TV show it doesn't take place anywhere really".
Boy was I still asleep this morning. Earl is the name of the angel in "Saving Grace", which obviously takes place in Oklahoma AND is a differnt show. Duh!
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