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Friday, November 02, 2007

Ind. Gov't. - "Paige Grable's release delayed: Correction department says earliest release is now Feb. 11"

Here is a story from the Jeffersonville/New Albany News & Tribune that the ILB found troubling on several levels. Some quotes (emphasis added by ILB):

Paige Grable won’t be released on Friday from the Madison Correctional Facility, as reported Tuesday.

The Indiana Department of Correction in a late-Wednesday press release said it reviewed the specifics of the 19-year-old Floyds Knobs woman’s pending release and determined she will remain in jail until at least Feb. 11.

The DOC said the mistake came in giving Grable — who earlier this year admitted her drunken driving in October 2006 led to the death of fellow Providence High School student John Gatz, 16 — 284 days of credit for completing her high school diploma while incarcerated. The DOC says she first completed her General Equivalency Diploma, and should only receive credit for that degree. That credit totals 183 days.

Our own internal policy states that an offender is only eligible to earn education credit time for the completion of either a GED or high school diploma in the order of completion,” said DOC Commissioner J. David Donahue in the release. “In this case, Ms. Grable completed her GED several days before the completion of her high school diploma,” he said.

Grable began serving a 30-month prison sentence in May, but credit for time served and the then-284 day credit meant Grable was expecting to leave prison and return home Friday. That angered Gatz’s family and Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson, who called a joint press conference Tuesday to voice frustration.

“Who in the world gets a GED and a high school diploma back to back unless they were hoping to skirt the system?” wondered Henderson at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

At that time, Henderson and the Gatz family believed Grable was receiving credit for both diplomas after e-mails to the family from DOC indicated as much. Henderson had expected Grable to be released in August 2008, 15 months after her May 16 sentencing. Having believed that Grable completed her diploma through the correspondence courses before entering prison, Henderson did not expect her to earn any further time off.

The family used the news of the release delay to emphasize a point they made at the Tuesday press conference — something is wrong with a system which awards hundreds of days of credit to prisoners for completing diplomas.

“This should not have been an ordeal to begin with and we will press legislators to consider amending the law regarding educational credit, especially for short-term prisoners,” a statement released to the media reads.

State Sen. Connie Sipes, D-New Albany, said she and colleague Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville — both of whom the Gatz family called for assistance — will investigate the language of the state’s educational-credit program before the new legislative session begins in January. * * *

After her release, Henderson said, Grable will be subject to prison parole for two years and Floyd County probation for 18 months. Her driving privileges were suspended for two years in May.

A story yesterday, from WAVE 3 Louisville by Mark Schnyder, reports in part:
After the Floyd County prosecutor argued for a month with the Indiana Department of Correction over Grable's early release, the DOC decided less than two days before she was to be let out that they had made a mistake. They admit they should not have given Grable credit for earning her high school diploma while in prison. Now that credit -- in the form of 101 days served -- has been taken back. * * *

For the Gatz's, this is not over. This bitter bureaucratic battle has turned them into activists. They are trying to get Indiana lawmakers to abolish the educational credit for short sentences so those who reach a plea deal actually serve the time they agree to serve.

The Floyd County prosecutor wants the Department of Correction to do an internal review. He says he's still bothered by the fact Grable came so close to getting out so early. He also says he'll work with the Gatz's and lawmakers on some new legislation regarding educational credit in Indiana prisons next session.

Harold J. Adams of the Louisville Courier Journal has this story Oct. 31st. Some quotes:
The Indiana Department of Correction cut time off Paige Grable's sentence because of education credits she had received since going to prison. But the basis for the sentence reduction is in dispute. * * *

The plea agreement called for a four-year sentence with 11/2 years suspended. The 30-month balance was automatically reduced to 15 months under Indiana's policy of cutting a sentence in half if the inmate has good behavior in prison.

Jennifer Saroka, spokeswoman for the Madison Correctional Facility where Grable is being held, said yesterday that nine months were cut from that 15-month term because Grable finished her high school education through a correspondence course.

Grable also earned a General Educational Development certificate while in prison "to enhance her chances of receiving college scholarships, all of which she lost when convicted," Saroka wrote in a statement in response to questions about the reduced prison time.

Saroka said Department of Correction policy allows credits of one year for getting a high school diploma and six months for getting a GED. But Saroka said that the agency's policy does not allow an inmate to get credit for both and that Grable was receiving time off her sentence only for the diploma.

Grable got both certifications in September.

Henderson, however, said the prison warden sent him computations that showed that the department was giving Grable time off for both the diploma and the GED.

"They said by statute they were allowed. That was the disagreement," Henderson said. He said Jim Wynn, the department's director of classification, repeated that claim in a conversation Thursday.

Kathy Gatz forwarded to The Courier-Journal copies of two e-mails received the same day from Katie O'Bryan, supervisor of the Victim/Witness Program for the Department of Correction. The e-mails confirm the Nov. 2 release date and said Grable "received 183 days for her GED and 101 days for her high school diploma."

"I don't know what kind of revelation they've had since then," Henderson said.

Saroka, asked about the e-mails and what Henderson said he was told, said, "It was inadvertently listed that way originally, but it was put under review and corrected."

The corrected computation assigned the entire 284-day sentence reduction to the diploma. Saroka said she did not know when the correction was made.

Henderson and the Gatzes said they had not been told about the correction.

Statutes, administrative rules, "internal policies" -- the ILB is confused and a quick search of the first two revealed nothing. What is the policy, where is it written, and how has it been applied in the past?

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 2, 2007 08:57 AM
Posted to Indiana Government