Lawmakers propose changes to early release rules - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Lawmakers propose changes to early release rules

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INDIANAPOLIS -

There is growing outrage about violent criminals being released too soon from prison. 13 Investigates showed killers and rapists cutting decades off their sentences.

State lawmakers are now vowing to do something about it.

In Indiana, it is not unusual for convicted killers to get out of jail in just a few years. Bryan Gooldy killed a young schoolteacher from Brown County. Justin Suits strangled his girlfriend to death near Muncie.

Both men were sentenced to 20 years in prison and both were released in less than six-and-a-half.

13 Investigates discovered thousands of violent offenders released after serving only a small fraction of their sentence.

"When you look at cases like these, do you think justice has been served?" 13 Investigates asked Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford).

"No. How could you look at that and say justice was served? Shocking," Steele said.

After seeing the results of our investigation, state lawmakers say there will be action.

"That is a topic that is being discussed now," said Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Danville).

Steuerwald plans to introduce legislation in the House, while Steele will sponsor a bill in the Indiana Senate.

Both lawmakers want to stop a widespread practice documented by 13 Investigates. It involves inmates who take classes inside prison. The classes aren't the problem, it's that each class allows an inmate to cut months or even years off his punishment and some inmates accumulate enough credits to drastically reduce their sentences.

"I don't think the intent was ever (that) you'd be able to stack so many credits. That's clearly an abuse of the process," Steuerwald said.

Inmates can currently get up to four years off their sentence for taking classes and programs behind bars. Lawmakers now want those incentives reduced.

"The maximum credit you're going to be allowed is two years. Period. You can't stack and you're not going to get any more than that," Steele said.

Inmates will still be able to get their sentences cut in half, because of what's called "good time credit." It allows an inmate to get one day cut off his sentence for every day of good behavior behind bars.

But 13 Investigates found the Indiana Department of Correction is giving inmates good time credit even when they don't behave.

Like Shawn Corbally.

The convicted rapist was cited 23 separate times for breaking prison rules, including three batteries behind bars. But he still got almost all of his good time credit. Instead of 25 years in prison, he got out after just 12 - for good behavior - and within a few months, police say he raped again.

"I never, for the life of me, thought you could offend inside the prison walls, have your good time credit taken away from you, then if you're good for a little while, you get it reinstated to you," Steele said. "So where's the incentive to stay good inside the prison walls if you know you're just going to get it back? Where's the logic in that?"

Steele, the chairman of the Senate Corrections Committee, says that's got to change and he's now drafting that language.

"That once you've lost your good time for breaking rules inside prison walls, whatever they take away from you in your good time credit, it's gone forever. There's a consequence to it. You never get it back," Steele said.

Lawmakers say the changes are necessary to help ensure safety in prisons and justice for victims.

"I think, in part, the system has failed them. So yes, we're going to deal with these issues and make these corrections," said Steuerwald.

Two separate legislative commissions are now working on issues involving how much time criminals will actually spend behind bars. Their reports and recommendations will be released next week.

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