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Inmate loses challenge to law ending certain educational funding

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The 2011 amendment that stopped state funding of postsecondary education programs in correctional facilities for convicted felons who are confined in a penal facility is not an ex post facto law nor does it violate an inmate’s constitutional rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Terrell Hawkins, who was incarcerated for Class A felony dealing in cocaine, was halfway through obtaining an associate’s degree from Ivy Tech Community College when Ivy Tech ended its program in the prison. The Legislature amended Indiana Code 21-12-3-13 to restrict certain felons from receiving state-funded educational programs.

Hawkins, now unable to finish his degree, filed a verified petition for additional credit time, which was denied. He raised several arguments: the amendment violates constitutional prohibitions against ex post facto laws, his constitutional right to equal protection was violated; and his right to equal treatment under the Indiana Constitution was violated.

He claimed the violations happened when inmates who had only one semester left until completing their degrees were allowed to finish the program, whereas he was no longer able.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of his petition for additional credit time. The amendment is not an ex post facto law because although he may have lost a chance to get educational credit time, the amendment didn’t increase his sentence or alter the definition of his criminal conduct, Senior Judge William Garrard wrote in Terrell Hawkins v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1201-CR-12.

The distinction between the two groups of inmates has a rational basis and serves a legitimate governmental purpose of encouraging inmate rehabilitation despite budgetary challenges, he continued.

The judges also found that the denial of his credit time petition did not violate the language or intent of I.C. 35-50-6-3.3.

 

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