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Court rules on literacy program, educational credit time

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While applauding a prison inmate for pursuing higher education while behind bars, the Indiana Court of Appeals has determined that man shouldn’t receive additional educational credit time for a program the state system doesn’t consider to fit into its definition of “literacy and life skills” programs.

Issuing a unanimous opinion today in Indiana Department of Correction v. Douglas Haley, No. 56A03-0911-CR-553, the appellate panel reversed a Newton Superior judge’s ruling that a convicted cocaine dealer should receive six months of credit time for completing a DOC life skills program, “Thinking for a Change.”

The state agency had declined his motion for that credit, arguing that it only fit one component of state statute about “basic life skills” but not another involving “literacy.” The DOC asserted a “literacy” program is a term of art originating in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act of 1998, and that it doesn’t apply to someone pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher education at the level Haley was in this case. Though Indiana Code 35-50-6-3.3 awards two years credit time for earning a bachelor’s degree, it doesn’t permit someone to earn credit time under two different provisions for the same program of study as Haley was contending should be allowed.

Based on that language, the appellate court deferred to the DOC interpretation and found the trial judge had erred in allowing the six months of credit time.

“That does not mean that Haley is ineligible for any educational credit, however,” Judge Terry Crone wrote, noting that he could receive the two-year credit but nothing in the court record reflects that’s been applied for or received. “Haley’s argument has merit, and moreover, we applaud him for seeking and attaining such a high level of education. However, our rules of statutory construction require that we read the statute as a whole.”

The appellate court reversed the trial court judge on that issue, and also held that the prosecuting attorney isn’t authorized by statute to represent DOC in a non-criminal matter as such disputes are between an inmate and the state agency.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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