APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD JUDICIAL CIRCUIT DEUEL COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA HONORABLE TIM D. TUCKER Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Zinter, Justice
CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON NOVEMBER 16, 2010
[¶1.] Steven West petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the Department of Correction's calculation of the time he must serve on two consecutive sentences. The dispute involves the manner of calculating good-conduct credit under SDCL 24-5-1. The habeas court affirmed the Department's calculation, which applied the statutory formula to each sentence separately. West appeals, arguing that the total time to be served under both sentences should be aggregated before applying the statute. We affirm the Department's calculation.
Facts and Procedural History
[¶2.] On July 1, 1998, Steven West was sentenced to 71/2 years in the state penitentiary for sexual contact with a child (his "first sentence"). On the same day, he was sentenced to 71/2 years for sexual contact with another child (his "second sentence"). The second sentence was to run consecutively to the first. [¶3.] West is an "old-system" inmate because his offenses were committed before July 1, 1996. See SDCL 24-15A-1. As an old-system inmate, West was entitled to a reduction of his sentences for good conduct (colloquially referred to as "good time") under SDCL 24-5-1. That statute provides that an inmate's sentence will be reduced four months per year for good conduct during the first nine years of the "sentence" and six months per year during the tenth year and each succeeding year of the "sentence." The statute provides:
Every inmate sentenced for any term less than life, or who has had an indeterminate sentence set at a term of years, or who has had a life sentence commuted to a term of years, and subject to the provisions of §§ 24-2-17 and 24-2-18, is entitled to a deduction of four months from his or her sentence for each year and pro rata for any part of a year for the first year to the tenth, and six months for the tenth year and for each year thereafter until the expiration of the period of the sentence as pronounced by the court, for good conduct.
[¶4.] The Department calculated West's total time to serve by allowing good-time credit of 21/2 years on each 71/2 -year sentence. The Department's calculation was as follows:
First Sentence: 71/2 years X 4 months/year = 30 months 30 months/12 = 21/2 years 71/2 years -- 21/2 years = 5 years to serve
Second Sentence: 71/2 years X 4 months/year = 30 months 30 months/12 = 21/2 years 71/2 years -- 21/2 years = 5 years to serve
Total time to serve: 5 years 5 years = 10 years Under this calculation, West completed serving his first 71/2 -year sentence on May 14, 2003.*fn1 West then commenced serving his second sentence. Allowing 21/2 years good-time credit on the second 71/2 -year sentence, the Department determined that West would complete serving his second sentence on May 14, 2008.
[¶5.] West contended that his good-time credit should have been calculated by adding his 71/2 -year sentences together before applying SDCL 24-5-1. In other words, West contended that the separate sentences should be aggregated to a total of fifteen years before the statutory formula was applied. West proposed a calculation as follows:
First Sentence of 71/2 years Second Sentence of 71/2 years = 15 years 9 years X 4 months/year = 36 months 6 years X 6 months/year = 36 months 36 months 36 months = ...