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.



  • 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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues