Indiana panel backs changes to early release law

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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 to advance the bill on Tuesday.

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 says that coach and other convicted sex offenders have "gamed the system" to gain early release.

Merritt says he doesn't want to stop inmates from being able to earn college degrees, but that sex offenders shouldn't use them for early release.

Justin Suits was released after serving just five and a half years of a 24-year prison term for murder. Suits was convicted of killing Don and Sharon Strasser's daughter Marva Rae.

"You think the system would take care of it when somebody kills another person and we felt like it really let us down. The system did not do what should have been done," Don Strasser said.

Read more about the bill.

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