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Governor To Reconsider Prisoner-Release Program Following Killing

March 6, 1989

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Gov. Evan Bayh suspended a state prison-release program after an inmate who was in prison for beating his ex-wife was charged with killing her while on an eight-hour pass.

″Clearly, mistakes were made, there’s no doubt about that, and I’m good and mad about it,″ Bayh said.

″I understand proper procedures were not followed, and we’re going to find out why that happened, discipline those who were involved, re-evaluate the whole program and see if it makes sense,″ Bayh said.

Fred Nation, Bayh’s press secretary, said no inmate involved in the furlough program will receive a pass for the next four weeks while corrections officials review the policy and report to the governor.

Alan Matheney, 38, was charged with murdering his ex-wife, Lisa Marie Bianco, 29, on Saturday in this town near the Michigan state line, authorities said. He was being held Sunday at the St. Joseph County Jail in South Bend.

Matheney, who was serving an eight-year sentence for beating Bianco two years ago, had been in a work-release prisoner at the camplike Correctional Industrial Complex. Prison officials said he was released into his mother’s custody Saturday morning.

The pass was supposed to limit his travel to the Indianapolis area, 40 miles southwest of the prison, but Matheney instead went to Mishawaka, 120 miles north of Indianapolis, authorities said.

Matheney was arrested Saturday afternoon after neighbors reported seeing Bianco bludgeoned in the head with the butt of a shotgun, police Capt. Ross Deal said.

″There were several witnesses,″ said police Cpl. Kevin Lockhart. ″It’s kind of the low-rent district, so nobody probably wanted to get involved ... There’s a lot of elderly people.″

Charles Miller, superintendent of the light-medium-security correctional complex, said Matheney was eligible for a 48-hour pass. Correction officials made his first pass shorter to gradually expose him to freedom and to ensure he could handle it, Miller said.

Bayh said that as he understood the situation, ″if proper procedures had been followed, the victim would have been notified, and in this particular instance that was not done.″

State policy requires such notification only if the crime victims request it, said Christopher Meloy, supervisor of work-release services for the Indiana Department of Correction. He said he did not know if Bianco had made such a request.

Nation said the furlough program, one of three in which inmates are allowed limited freedom, was in effect when Bayh, a Democrat, took office earlier this year. Inmates also can receive work release and ″special assignment″ to interfaith housing.

″We are going to re-evaluate this program because we’re not convinced that it is a program that serves the best interests of the department or the people of the state of Indiana,″ Nation said.

President Bush made prison furloughs allowed by Gov. Michael Dukakis the focus of a soft-on-crime attack on his Democratic rival in the 1988 campaign. Bush cited the case of Willie Horton, a Massachusetts prisoner who bludgeoned a Maryland couple, raping the woman, after escaping during a weekend furlough.

The federal government has a prison furlough program, also, but only for prisoners within two years of their release date.

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