Wood v. Commissioner of Correction

CourtMassachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Writing for the CourtBefore TAURO; TAURO
Citation363 Mass. 79,292 N.E.2d 712
Decision Date12 February 1973
PartiesLawrence WOOD v. COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION.

Page 712

292 N.E.2d 712
363 Mass. 79
Lawrence WOOD
v.
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION.
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.
Argued Dec. 7, 1972.
Decided Feb. 12, 1973.

Page 713

Robert V. Greco, Boston (Francis J. Stolarz, Boston, with him), for petitioner.

James X. Kenneally, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Patricia M. Dinneen, with him), for respondent.

Before TAURO, C.J., and BRAUCHER, HENNESSEY, KAPLAN and WILKINS, JJ.

TAURO, Chief Justice.

The petitioner appeals from a Superior Court final decree on a bill for declaratory relief seeking to establish that G.L. c. 127, § 83B, does not require forfeiture of prospective 'good conduct deductions.' 1

The following pertinent facts appear from the record before us. The petitioner was originally found guilty of armed robbery and sentenced to a twenty-five to thirty year term. On July 1, 1963, the petitioner, while serving his sentence, escaped from a prison camp at Monroe, Massachusetts. He was apprehended and returned to [363 Mass. 80] custody on July 5, 1963. 2 As of the date of his escape, the petitioner had earned 765 days of good conduct deductions as allowed by G.L. c. 127, § 129. From the date of his return to custody until December 31, 1970, the petitioner could have been entitled further to 1,105 days of good conduct deductions. However, the Commissioner of Correction, acting pursuant to G.L. c. 127, § 83B, ordered that all of the petitioner's good

Page 714

conduct deductions, both those earned before the escape and those potential prospective deductions for time served after the escape on the original twenty-five to thirty year sentence be forfeited because of the petitioner's escape from the prison camp. This administrative interpretation of § 83B's mandate was upheld by the Superior Court judge's final decree which held that '(a)s a matter of statutory construction, no distinction may be drawn under § 83B between earned and prospective good conduct deductions.' Thus, the sole issue presented by this appeal is the correctness of the judge's ruling.

At the time of the petitioner's escape, G.L. c. 127, § 83B, 3 provided that 'If a prisoner escapes or attempts to escape from a prison camp all deductions from the sentence he is then serving shall be thereby forfeited.' The Department of Correction has interpreted the words 'all deductions' to encompass not only all the deductions that the inmate has earned up until the time of the escape but also any deductions he may earn on his return to custody. The commissioner argues that since the statute refers to 'all deductions' and not just to 'all previously earned deductions,' the statutory language on its face clearly indicates that no deductions whatever can be made from the term of imprisonment of an escapee from a prison camp. However, the statutory language is not that clear. If the use of the word 'deductions' refers only to earned deductions, then the language 'all deductions[363 Mass. 81] . . . shall be thereby forfeited' would support the petitioner's construction, rather than the respondent's. Section 83B's ambiguous reference to 'all deductions' is not clarified by the statute's failure to refer only to 'previously earned deductions' because the statute could just as well have read 'all possible deductions shall thereby be forfeited' in order to clarify its intent to include prospective as well as earned deductions. 4

Thus, since we have an ambiguous penal statute to interpret (see Patrick v. Commissioner of Correction, 352 Mass. 666, 669, 227 N.E.2d 348), we must construe it strictly (Davey Bros. Inc. v. Stop & Shop, Inc., 351 Mass. 59, 217 N.E.2d 751) to prevent its extension by implication unless the Legislature made this intent manifest. See Melody v. Reab, 4 Mass. 471, 473.

However, there is nothing before us that clearly establishes a manifest legislative intent to have § 83B's forfeiture of good conduct deductions apply prospectively. To the contrary, an analysis of the legislative history and purpose of the various provisions under c....

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21 practice notes
  • Simon v. State Examiners of Electricians
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • May 31, 1984
    ...Mass. at 554, 313 N.E.2d 448, and that the exemption § 7 must, therefore, be broadly construed, cf. Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, 363 Mass. 79, 81, 292 N.E.2d 712 (1973), we cannot interpret § 7 so that it is "stretched by enlargement of signification to comprehend matters not within ......
  • Mone v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 16, 1975
    ...Davey Bros. Inc. v. Stop & Shop, Inc., 351 Mass. 59, 63, 217 N.E.2d 751 (1966); Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, --- Mass. ---, --- f, 292 N.E.2d 712 (1973). We have refused to permit the exaction of a double penalty for a single wrong by separate wrongful death actions against principal......
  • Com. v. Montecalvo
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 21, 1975
    ...'it has expressly stated its intent in clear and unambiguous language.' Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, --- Mass. ---, ---, a 292 N.E.2d 712, 715 (1973). The absence of such 'clear and appropriate language' in § 28 as originally enacted leads us to the conclusion that individual interro......
  • Com. v. Beacon Distributors, Inc.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • January 14, 1983
    ...or find the statute ambiguous, the defendants are entitled to the benefit of any rational doubt. Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, 363 Mass. 79, 81, 292 N.E.2d 712 (1973). Commonwealth v. Crosscup, 369 Mass. 228, 234, 339 N.E.2d 731 (1975). Commonwealth v. Lotten Books, Inc., 12 Mass.App.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • Simon v. State Examiners of Electricians
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • May 31, 1984
    ...Mass. at 554, 313 N.E.2d 448, and that the exemption § 7 must, therefore, be broadly construed, cf. Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, 363 Mass. 79, 81, 292 N.E.2d 712 (1973), we cannot interpret § 7 so that it is "stretched by enlargement of signification to comprehend matters not within ......
  • Mone v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • July 16, 1975
    ...Davey Bros. Inc. v. Stop & Shop, Inc., 351 Mass. 59, 63, 217 N.E.2d 751 (1966); Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, --- Mass. ---, --- f, 292 N.E.2d 712 (1973). We have refused to permit the exaction of a double penalty for a single wrong by separate wrongful death actions against principal......
  • Com. v. Montecalvo
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 21, 1975
    ...'it has expressly stated its intent in clear and unambiguous language.' Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, --- Mass. ---, ---, a 292 N.E.2d 712, 715 (1973). The absence of such 'clear and appropriate language' in § 28 as originally enacted leads us to the conclusion that individual interro......
  • Com. v. Beacon Distributors, Inc.
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • January 14, 1983
    ...or find the statute ambiguous, the defendants are entitled to the benefit of any rational doubt. Wood v. Commissioner of Correction, 363 Mass. 79, 81, 292 N.E.2d 712 (1973). Commonwealth v. Crosscup, 369 Mass. 228, 234, 339 N.E.2d 731 (1975). Commonwealth v. Lotten Books, Inc., 12 Mass.App.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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