DOC educational credit time not guaranteed for inmates in program, COA affirms

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A woman convicted of multiple drug-related crimes received the correct amount of educational credit time and did not have the right to immediate discharge from prison, the Court of Appeals of Indiana ruled Monday.

Coila Bradford pleaded guilty to committing three drug-related crimes and was sentenced to an aggregate term of 10 years at the Department of Correction in March 2013.

According to court records, Bradford was placed on probation at some point, and she committed a new criminal offense during that period. The state thus filed a petition to revoke her probation.

Following a hearing, the Parke Circuit Court revoked Bradford’s probation and sentenced her to an aggregate four-year term of incarceration.

Bradford opted into a Case Plan Credit Time agreement with the DOC in October 2021 to earn educational credit time.

That agreement stated that Bradford would not earn credit time upon completion of the program, but at the first CPCT review. It would have resulted in an award of 90 days of educational credit time prior to the DOC’s adoption of the CPCT curriculum in 2020.

After three CPCT reviews, the DOC awarded Bradford a total of 119 days of credit time, which represented completing the building trades program, receiving satisfactory DOC reports, and satisfying other goals adopted by the DOC on or after Jan. 1, 2022.

Bradford applied for a writ of habeas corpus and asserted that the DOC should have awarded her 16 months of educational credit time, or one-third of her four-year sentence, in accordance with the agreement, the relevant statutes and the DOC’s policy.

At an August 2022 hearing, the Parke Circuit Court denied Bradford’s application for writ of habeas corpus, determining that her restraint was not “illegal.” The trial court stated that “just because there are maximums that are set out in the statute for educational credit, that does not mean that the DOC ‘shall’ give that credit.”

Bradford appealed the denial, claiming the trial court miscalculated the educational credit time she earned while incarcerated.

She contended that had the proper credit time been awarded, she would have the right to immediate discharge from the Indiana Department of Correction.

The appellate court rejected Bradford’s appeal and affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Chief Judge Robert Altice wrote the opinion for the court.

In the opinion, the appellate court noted that educational credit time for those incarcerated in the DOC is not an entitlement or a guarantee.

“Simply put, offenders have no constitutional right to receive credit time,” the opinion states.

Further, the opinion points out that Bradford presented no evidence that she did anything to earn additional credit time.

“Bradford did not acquire a college degree, high school diploma or the equivalent; nor did she enroll in — or complete — a technical program other than building trades that was counted toward her credited 119 days, along with ‘the other goals that she had worked towards during that time,’” the opinion states.

Bradford argued that the DOC’s implementation of CPCT for those who opted in to the program violated her due process rights. She also maintained that the agreement and DOC’s policies regarding those offenders who opt in to the CPCT program violate the ex post facto clauses of the United States and Indiana constitutions.

The appellate court rejected both arguments, observing that Bradford did not raise any constitutional challenges at trial and did not make a cogent argument on appeal regarding any alleged due process violations.

The implementation of CPCT did not change the definition of Bradford’s crime or alter her four-year probation revocation sentence, the opinion states.

The court ruled Bradford did not establish that she was adversely impacted by the maximum credit award when she opted into CPCT because she did nothing to earn more than the 119 days she was awarded.

“It follows, therefore, that because Bradford has failed to show how her constitutional rights were substantially prejudiced, there was no ex post facto violation,” Altice wrote.

Judges Patricia Riley and Rudolph Pyle concurred.

The case is Coila Bradford v. State of Indiana, 22A-MI-2112.

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