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Senator files bill restricting educational credit time for sex offenders

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Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, announced Wednesday that he has introduced legislation to revise the state’s education credit law for sex offenders. He said eight months ago that he would seek to change the law after a sex offender was released early after earning this type of credit.

Senate Bill 260 is in response to the early release of former Lawrence North High School swim coach Chris Wheat in May 2012, who was in prison for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. He was sentenced to eight years in 2010 but released in 2012 for earning good time and educational credits.

This bill would implement code revisions to prevent inmates from what Merritt calls “blatantly gaming the system like this” in the future. The legislation:
•    Prohibits sex offenders from receiving educational credit time for earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree while incarcerated. Sex offenders could only earn educational credits for high school degrees and basic rehabilitation classes, which provide less time breaks than associate’s and bachelor’s degrees;
•    Bars all offenders from receiving educational credit time for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree they earned prior to incarceration; and
•    Requires educational credit time earned by sex and violent offenders to be subtracted from their sentence dates, rather than their earliest possible release dates. Only non-sex and non-violent offenders could subtract education credit time from their earliest possible release dates.

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, is authoring the same proposal in the House of Representatives in House Bill 1249.

“Knowing that 97 percent of offenders will return to one of Indiana’s 92 counties at some point, I support education programs for inmates because they prepare them for ex-offender status through rehabilitation,” Merritt said in a news release. “That being said, we cannot allow offenders, especially sex and violent offenders, to manipulate our system and avoid paying the due penalty for their crimes, as determined by a court of law.”

SB 260 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law; HB 1249 is expected to be heard by the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code.
 

 

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  • Abuse of Power
    When I read this article, I was not sure I understood it. I am at a loss to comprehend the senators' rationale. Perhaps it is just that punishing sex offenders more harshly than any other offenders draws headlines. This is a cruel, vicious and highly offensive move on their part; I hope the citizens of Indiana will see through it and realize the consequences of any legislation like this. In addition to being of questionable constitutionality, this bill denies benefits to a specific class of persons without any justification. On the human side, almost all sex offenders, upon release, face serious barriers to employment. As ex-felons, they can not qualify for educational aid, should they want to continue their education. Self employment is the only option (other than unemployment) available to someone whose personal information and the worst thing he has ever done, are memorialized on the internet like Bin Laden's bio for everyone to see. Taking away any tools for self improvement for any incarcerated person is a cruel, senseless bullying crime. These senators intend to keep punishing people who have already been convicted. They fail to realize, or to tell you, that taking away a person's hope is criminal. People who can not get a job, can not find a place to live, can not reintegrate into society - do NOT make society safer. Pushing people to the margins of society by denying them every possible opportunity for self-improvement, as these senators intend to do, is against the spirit of every world religion and is morally offensive. This bill will lead to creation of an underclass and is so incredibly disturbing it should never see the light of day.
  • Did You Think This Through
    This is the most absurd legislative action I have heard since....let’s see....since the Governor of NY and the President signed bills to ‘solve’ the gun crisis. Let me ask the obvious question regarding these bills. The recidivism rate is 5% for another "sexual" offense so why would you sponsor bills CHOOSING to flat time people (who could have done anything from urinating in public to being falsely accused to rape) all because they are taking college courses? To me that means you DON’T want them to exceed. So what if they get released sooner….that is a win-win situation in that the registrant is trying to improve their chances of getting something other than a minimum wage income AND the state doesn’t have to figure out what programs they can cut to cover the $23,000 to $25,000 per registrant per year cost of incarceration. Does that make sense to you? I think Senator Merritt and Representative Eberhart have a future in Congress….don’t you? I don’t know if you have a Re-entry Organization in your state but if so I hope they jump all over this idea. Registrants should be required to complete treatment AND the facility should be required to provide the stipulated treatment AND make sure they are sent to a facility that offers that treatment. Also, I hope there is a law suit filed against this brilliant maneuver. Vicki Henry Women Against Registry dot com

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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