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Editorial: Limit credit toward early release for sex offenders

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People sent to prison for sex offenses couldn’t receive credit toward an early release by earning college degrees under a proposal supported by an Indiana Senate committee.

The Senate’s corrections committee voted 8-1 last week to advance the bill.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Merritt of Indianapolis cited the case of a former high school swim coach who was released after serving less than two years of an eight-year sentence for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl he coached. Merritt said that coach and other convicted sex offenders have “gamed the system” to gain early release.

A more egregious example occurred closer to home.

The man who police said raped a Greenwood woman at knifepoint spent more than 11 years in prison for two other rape cases, including one in which the victim was held at gunpoint. He was convicted of two counts of rape in 2000 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

But he served less than half that sentence after receiving credit for good behavior, taking classes and undergoing counseling. Five months after he was released from prison, investigators said the man sexually assaulted and held the Greenwood woman at knifepoint in her home for hours. He now faces four counts of rape, two counts of criminal deviate conduct and one charge each of burglary, intimidation, attempted residential entry and failure to register as a sex offender.

All the charges are felonies and carry maximum penalties of up to 50 years in prison. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

At the time of his arrest, he was on probation in Marion County after being released from prison on the rape convictions, according to a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Correction.

We don’t think the state should stop inmates from being able to earn college degrees. After all, helping inmates prepare for a constructive life after prison is part of the mission of the Department of Correction.

But sex offenders shouldn’t use educational credits for early release. These inmates need treatment more than education.

Limiting educational credit for convicted sex offenders would help protect the public against predators.

We urge the full Senate to pass this bill and move it to the House.

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