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Hoosiers change in inmate early release rules

– Two families whose loved ones died in violent crimes want Indiana lawmakers to change laws allowing convicted felons to be released from prison early because of good behavior.

Chris Clippinger hopes to collect 10,000 signatures on a petition that urges lawmakers to stop granting good time credit for violent offenders.

Indiana law allows most prisoners to be released after serving at least 50 percent of their sentence, WSBT reported (http://bit.ly/TWEl5e ). A few prisoners are required to serve 85 percent of their sentence under current law, and the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council has proposed expanding that rule to cover murder and other high-level felonies.

Prisoners can receive reduce their sentences further by getting college degrees.

Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison says the hope of release encourages good behavior while inmates are in prison, and letting them out early saves taxpayers money.

Chris Clippinger disagree with the approach.

Police say her brother-in-law, Matthew Clippinger, and his wife, Lisa, were shot to death at their Mishawaka home in June by Matthew's brother-in-law, Steven.

Steven Clippinger, who faces two charges of murder in the case, was paroled from prison in 2010 after earning credits for good behavior and serving just 20 years of a 45-year sentence for the shooting death of a family friend.

"Matt and Lisa don't get that time back. (Their children) don't get that time back. Why should anyone that does something to a family get any kind of reprieve? Because as victims we get no reprieve from the life sentence we've been served," Chris Clippinger said.

Traci Winston, whose sister Trina was killed in August, agreed.

Police have charged Trina Winston's estranged husband, Tarrance Lee, with killing her in their Mishawaka apartment and dumping her body in Chicago. Lee was sentenced in the 1980s to 150 years for his role in the deaths of two people but was released in 2006 after serving less than 20 years.

Clippinger and Winston are circulating a petition on Change.org and already have more than 700 signatures.

Garrison said eliminating the good behavior credit won't stop offenders from committing other crimes.

"The only way you could be absolutely sure that an offender didn't re-offend is to let no one out of prison ever -- and that is not what society is willing to do," Garrison said.

Information from: WSBT-TV, http://www.wsbt.com/

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