The mother of a girl who was sexually abused by her swim coach is very upset that he will soon be released from prison, and lawmakers are hoping to change Indiana's statute.
In an interview with RTV6's Kara Kenney
, the girl's mother said the laws are skewed to protect criminals.
Chris Wheat, who was an assistant coach at Lawrence North, was convicted in 2010 of two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of child solicitation.
Wheat was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with two of those years in community corrections.
But because of good behavior and educational credits, Wheat will be released from the New Castle Correctional Facility in just a few weeks, having spent 20 months in jail.
The victim's mother said she knew something was wrong with her then-14-year-old daughter.
"She started crying immediately. She had wanted to tell us, but she was so ashamed and embarrassed," the girl's mother said.
The girl's mother said she found out about Wheat's contact with her daughter while at an overnight swim party attended by the girl and Wheat.
The girl, now 17, and her mother are having a hard time coming to grips with Wheat's pending release.
"Her comment when she found out was, 'Mom, I tried so hard to do the right thing, and I feel like's it's being taken away from me,'" the girl's mother said. "I feel the prosecutors did their job. They were tremendous, but I feel our laws are written incorrectly. We are too worried about protecting the criminals and not enough about the victims."
State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, is working on legislation that would address the state's early release laws.
"A sex offender is a lot different than any other conviction. I think we need to look at all sorts of options next year to treat this crime differently in the code," Merritt said.
Early release laws were created to encourage prisoners to improve themselves and stay busy while incarcerated. While Wheat was already a teacher, he received credit for completing a bachelor's degree and associate degree while incarcerated.
Merritt said he believes it shouldn't come at the expense of children.
"Our children are in many cases defenseless. We need to throw the book at these individuals," Merritt said.
The girl's mother wants tougher punishment for child sex offenders.
"We need change. We definitely need change," she said. "I want people to know he is going to be back in their community. I don't believe this is the end of his bad behavior."
Merritt said he is considering introducing legislation that would keep offenders from getting the education credit if they already have a degree.
Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, is also working on legislation in the wake of the Wheat case.
"Sexual predators are a menace to our society. The pain they inflict upon their victims lasts a lifetime, and it makes no sense that these violent offenders are being released early from prison," she said in a statement.
Wheat's attorney, Jim Voyles, declined to comment on his client's release. The Department of Correction said it is following state statute in the Wheat case.
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