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Sen. Merritt Makes Good on Promise to Revise Indiana’s Education Credit Law for Sex Offenders
Start Date: 1/16/2013Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 1/16/2013End Time: 11:59 PM
Entry Description

STATEHOUSE (Jan. 16, 2013) – State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) is carrying a bill during the 2013 legislative session to revise Indiana’s education credit law for sex offenders, making good on a promise he made after learning an inmate from his district gamed the Department of Correction’s early release system last year.

Merritt said Senate Bill 260 was drafted in response to the early release of Chris Wheat in May 2012. This former Lawrence North swim coach was sentenced in 2010 to eight years in prison for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, but was released for earning good time and education credits after only serving 19 months of his sentence. SB 260 would implement three code revisions to prevent inmates from what Merritt calls “blatantly gaming the system like this” in the future:

  • Prohibit 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. These offer less time breaks than associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, which provide one year and two years of credit time respectively.)
  • Bar all offenders from receiving educational credit time for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree they earned prior to incarceration.
  • Require educational credit time earned by sex and violent offenders to be subtracted from their sentence dates, rather than their earliest possible release dates. (This means only non-sex and non-violent offenders could subtract education credit time from their earliest possible release dates.)

“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. “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.”

Merritt added that State Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville) is authoring this same proposal in the House of Representatives, House Bill 1249.

“Our criminal system is meant to rehabilitate offenders by serving the sentences deemed appropriate by the judicial system. The most violent offenders are serving a fraction of the initial sentence by taking advantage of the good time and education credit system, and that is simply unacceptable. The legislation that I have proposed in the House prevents future offenders from finding an easy way out of their sentences,” said Eberhart.

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

-30-

Contact Information:
Name: Whitney Moorman
Phone: 317-232-7184
Email: wmoorman@iga.in.gov
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Entry Type:
Press Release
Entry Category:
  • Announcements
  • IN.gov Category:
  • About Indiana
  • Agency Name
    Senate Republican Caucus

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