Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433 (1997)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 95-7452. Argued November 4, 1996—Decided February 19, 1997

Beginning in 1983 the Florida Legislature enacted a series of statutes authorizing the award of early release credits to prison inmates when the state prison population exceeded predetermined levels. In 1986 petitioner received a 22-year prison sentence on a charge of attempted murder. In 1992 he was released based on the determination that he had accumulated five different types of early release credits totaling 5,668 days, including 1,860 days of "provisional credits" awarded as a result of prison overcrowding. Shortly thereafter, the state attorney general issued an opinion interpreting a 1992 statute as having retroactively canceled all provisional credits awarded to inmates convicted of murder and attempted murder. Petitioner was therefore rearrested and returned to custody. He filed a habeas corpus petition alleging that the retroactive cancellation of provisional credits violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. Relying on precedent rejecting this argument on the ground that the sole purpose of these credits was to alleviate prison overcrowding, the District Court dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals denied a certificate of probable cause.

Held: The 1992 statute canceling provisional release credits violates the

Ex Post Facto Clause. Pp. 439-449. (a) This Court rejects respondents' contention that the cancellation of petitioner's provisional credits did not violate the Clause because the credits had been issued as part of administrative procedures designed to alleviate prison overcrowding and were therefore not an integral part of petitioner's punishment. To fall within the ex post facto prohibition, a law must be retrospective and "disadvantage the offender affected by it," Weaver v. Graham, 450 U. S. 24, 29, by, inter alia, increasing the punishment for the crime, see Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U. S. 37, 50. The operation of the 1992 statute was clearly retrospective, and a determination that it disadvantaged petitioner by increasing his punishment is supported by Weaver v. Graham, 450 U. S., at 36, in which the Court held that retroactively decreasing the amount of gain-time awarded for an inmate's good behavior violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. Because Weaver and subsequent cases focused on whether the legislature's action


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