Golden Gate University Law Review


In Macfarlane v. Walter, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Washington state and county early-release credit systems for prisoners violate the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. The early-release credit systems unconstitutionally provide fewer early-release credits to pre-trial detainees who cannot afford to post bail than to similarly-situated prisoners who post bail and serve their entire sentences after trial in state prison. The court held that awarding fewer good behavior credits for time served in county jail than for time served in state prison denies equal protection of the law to pre-trial detainees who serve part of their sentences in county jail due to lack of funds to post bail, because the court found no relationship between the state's purpose of maintaining prisoner discipline and offering fewer good behavior credits. However, in the case of good performance credits, the court held that excluding pre-trial detainees from earning good performance credits for participation in work or treatment programs does not deny equal protection of the law because there is a relationship between the state's purpose of preventing flight from prosecution and excluding pre-trial detainees from participating in off-site work or treatment programs.

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