Good Time Credits and Disciplinary Procedure by Jeffery J. Gardner
I have been incarcerated in the Virginia Department of Corrections for 15 years. During this time I have been eligible to earn good time to reduce my sentence up to 15%.
When things go well I can earn 4.5 days a month at GCA Level-I (Good Conduct Allowance), which reduces my time by 54 days during the Annual Review cycle.
At GCA Level-II, I earn 3 days per month or 36 days per Annual Review cycle.
At GCA Level-III, I earn 1.5 days per month or 18 days per Annual Review Cycle.
At GCA Level-IV, I earn no good time.
Counselors can do just about whatever they want with my GCA Level. If I can't get a job or into a program I lose good time. I'm not in charge of hiring for jobs or program enrollment, but I'm faulted for it. If a counselor wants to, they can give credit for being on a waiting list.
Disciplinary Offense Reports are a deciding factor in GCA Level as well. At the counselors discretion, a 200 Series DOR may not drop GCA earning level. A 100 Series DOR will certainly cause a reduction.
Correction Officers (CO's) often write false or trumped up DOR's out of retaliation for grievances, animosity for the nature of a conviction, race, sexuality, etc... and there is almost no chance to beat a DOR at a disciplinary hearing, level-I Appeal, or level-II Appeal.
From October 2015, until October 2016, I was an Inmate Advisor. I assisted inmates in preparing for a disciplinary hearing, at the hearing, and with appeals. During this year at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, CO's wrote over 1200 DOR's. The prison population is 1200.
My boss was the Institutional Hearings Officer, and the instruction I was given was "try to get them to take a penalty offer" [...] "if my CO's take time out of their busy day to write a charge, then I'm obligated to find them guilty." She had a 99% conviction rate.
When I was hired, I beat the first 2 DORs I represented an inmate on. I was told "you won't beat another one."
One inmate I represented had a malicious shakedown of his cell due to a grievance he had filed. A Sgt. and CO went in his cell and opened his locker. They picked up his Backgammon game, which was purchased from commissary, took the dice, and wrote him a gambling paraphernalia DOR. They then picked up a resealable plastic bag of art shading sticks that was ordered from Dick Blick Art Supplies, and issued to this inmate by the Property Officer. The Sgt. opened the resealable bag and dumped out the shading sticks and wrote a DOR for contraband. A little deeper in the locker they found a bottle of cough syrup, which is sold on commissary. The bottle had about 2 tablespoons of cough syrup in it. The cough syrup was out of date, so this guy got another DOR for hoarding medication/expired medication.
At the disciplinary hearing I argued with logic. I stated plain and simple facts that the dice are sold and issued with the game, the resealable bag was original packaging that passed the Property Officers inspection before being issued, that many commissary items come in the same type of bag such as coffee, cocoa, creamer, tortillas, etc.... and that the cough syrup was an accident that happens to everyone, and the fact it sat in the locker and expired is an indication it wasn't being abused.
The inmate was found guilty on all charges, punished, and lost good time.
Another inmate that I represented had a DOR for intentionally destroying state property – his sheets. This guy would purchase handkerchiefs from commissary to draw on. When he completed a handkerchief he would cut the seam around the outside edge off with nail clippers, so the handkerchief would fold flat, fit nicely in the envelope, and ship on a First Class stamp. Everything was good until one of these handkerchiefs was returned to the mailroom when the intended recipient had moved from the address. By policy all mail is opened and inspected and the mailroom supervisor issued the DOR.
At the hearing we addressed that this inmate had his sheets, his celly had sheets, all the inmates in the pod had their sheets, and no missing sheets were reported on the compound. Commissary records showed he purchased handkerchiefs regularly and his celly testified to seeing this guy draw and cut handkerchiefs regularly.
The mailroom supervisor had been a Sgt. at the prison for years before going to the mailroom. She said she had conducted cell searches for 20+ years and knew cut up sheets when she saw them. I handed her a handkerchief and asked if the cotton polyester fabric was any different from the fabric with the picture drawn on it. She said yes, but it was the same.
This guy was found guilty of destroying his sheets, was punished under disciplinary procedures (cell restriction?), and spent at least 18 more days in prison.
I made several enemies for pointing out technicalities in the DOR's written by staff. It's rare to see a DOR written correctly and completely using the formula who, what, when, where, how, etc. Words are misspelled, wrong dates, wrong state number, wrong time, witnesses not listed, location not listed, etc.
Staff started making threats to move me, terminate my job and started conducting malicious cell searches. The first malicious shakedown resulted in mine and my cellmates clothes (clean & dirty), bedding, and paperwork being scattered over the floor. The CO's then opened Ramen noodle seasoning packets and scattered [them] around. The CO's gathered a comb, acrylic mirror, and orange ball cap that I had possessed about 12 years to confiscate as contraband. They took 2 strips of ripped sheets that comes on our laundry bags each week, and threatened to write me a III DOR – Destroying State property. The Assistant Warden, came in the pod while this was happening and I told him what was going on. He stopped the confiscation and BS DOR's. Staff was pissed.
A few weeks later PSCC went on lockdown for a quarterly shakedown. Staff wanted to make my life harder, so they moved my celly that I had celled with 3 years out, and moved in a self-proclaimed leader of the Aryan Brotherhood gang.
My old celly worked in Laundry and the Laundry Manager printed menus for his workers every week. So for 3 years I saw a menu in the cell. When my old celly moved out 3 days before this lockdown, he left the menu behind. Well, when my pod was shook down there was 2 CO's per cell, except mine which had 6 off the rip and at one time 9. They tore stuff up. The only way they could have been any nastier would have been to urinate and defecate over everything.
They found an inter-racial penetration picture that looked like it was printed off of the internet in one of the offices. It wasn't from a magazine or commercial photo. I received a 224 Contraband DOR for the picture and a III-Stealing DOR for the menu.
I lost my Inmate Advisor job due to being issued a DOR.
I accepted a $12.00 penalty offer for the picture to avoid having to argue the issue and subject matter with my former boss.
CO Austin escorted me to the office where CO Smith served me with the DOR's. I told CO Smith how the menu was brought to the cell by my former celly, from Laundry. And I requested a disciplinary hearing.
In preparing for the hearing I sent witness forms to my former celly and the Laundry Manager. My former celly admitted it was his menu, he brought it from laundry, and left it when he moved. The Laundry Manager admitted to printing and disseminating menus to his workers.
At the time PSCC had a Structured Living Unit (SLU) and to qualify inmates had to have 3-200 Series DOR's or 1-100 series DOR in a 6 month period. Inmates were on 21 hour lockdown in double-bunked cells less than 96 sq. ft., no schools, religious programs, law library, DCE library, etc. Commissary and property was limited to $45. This was for 90 days and receiving a DOR in SLU resulted in 90 more days. No hearing, no appeals, 90 days period.
So, before I had a hearing I was escorted by the Sgt. that wrote my DOR's to the SLU. He wasn't supposed to have contact with me relating to the DOR's before the hearing, or discuss DOR's with me before the hearing, but he did.
Six hours after I was placed in SLU, I went to the office for my disciplinary hearing. When I arrived the hearings officer, reporting officer (Sgt. that wrote the DOR), and Laundry Manager were already in the office talking. By policy they weren't supposed to have contact until the hearing, which doesn't start until I arrive and the recording device turned on.
My former celly admitted to receiving and bringing menus back. The Laundry Manager admitted to printing and disseminating menus. The Sgt. stated that I admitted to stealing the menu. CO Austin, made a surprise visit to say that he heard me tell Sgt. Corner that I stole the menu, which was a lie. DOR's have a section for witnesses to an event to be named, but CO Austin's name wasn't listed as a witness, or mentioned in the DOR's summary, because he wasn't around. He only learned of the details when he was present during the serving of the DOR by CO Smith and saw I had an alibi.
The hearings officer totally disregarded the evidence and numerous procedural errors and found me guilty. I received 30 days loss of Rec. (23-1/2 hour lockdown) and 30 days loss of phone.
On appeal the III DOR was reduced to a 224 Contraband so I no longer had a 100-series DOR to qualify for 90 days of 21 hour lockdown with restricted privileges in SLU. Staff refused to release me.
So, for a menu I did not steal, I lost my job making $54.00/month, I did 30 days on 23-1/2 hour lockdown (no school, no religious programs, no law library, etc...) 60 days on 21 hour lock (no schools, religious programs, law library, etc.). I was denied employment for a year.
A year later at my Annual Review, my counselor dropped my GCA level down to a II. So, I will spend 18 more days in prison for the same menu that I was punished for several times already. One 200-series would not have dropped my GCA level, since I had worked and took Breaking Barriers. The menu hurt, especially since my good time will decide whether I die in prison.
VDOC receives $27,227.00 per inmate per year. VDOC has 30,000 inmates, so that's $816,810,000.00.
Every day a person spends in VDOC costs taxpayers $74.59.
Every DOR that is written has the potential to cost $1342.70 to $4027.86.
How much did the 1200+ DOR's written at PSCC cost taxpayers in 2015-2016? I estimate about $1,600,000.00, but that's probably real low.
DOR's probably cost $20,000,000 - $30,000,000 statewide.
It's a bad set-up. Inmates doing 100% of their time are worth 15% more to VDOC. No wonder no one does 85%.
If you are working on an APWA-related project, please let us know how you plan to utilize the Archive. We hope to share information about your work with our readers and, whenever possible, with relevant APWA authors.
APWA is an open access archive. We encourage use of the writings for research, course planning, and projects engaged in examination of the criminal legal system. Reproduction of essays in their entirety infringes on author copyright without their explicit consent from the writers. Please contact us if you plan to reproduce entire essays; we will do our best to put you in contact with the authors for consent, and their compensation for any project that is profit making.