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SPECIAL REPORT: A look at the man Colt Lundy has become in prison

Colt Lundy speaks about his seven year sentence so far. // WSBT 22 Photo

It's been seven years since Colt Lundy and Paul Gingerich were arrested for the murder of Phil Danner.

At 15 and 12, they were some of the youngest people in Indiana's history to be sentenced as adults.

Gingerich was released earlier this year; Lundy is still in prison.

Lundy says Danner, his stepfather, was abusive, but he also admits that didn't make killing him okay.

Now he's trying to turn a lengthy prison sentence into a chance at redemption.

Lundy looked much different at 15 than he does now.

"Yes, haha, yes I do. Every time I see a picture of that, I’m like 'ah man, stop showing that on TV,” said Lundy.

During his time behind bars, Lundy has transitioned from a baby faced-boy to a baby-faced adult.

"I could get away with just sitting in my bed, all day, watching TV, doing nothing else,” Lundy said.

That's not in Lundy's nature.

The now 22-year-old started his 25-year sentence at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.

“It's just much more somber there, older crowd,” said Lundy.

Wabash is maximum security, a tough place to grow up.

Lundy says he wanted to look the part to survive.

“I wanted people to look at me, I don't want to mess with that dude,” Lundy said.

As Lundy got tougher through exercise, he also developed a serious work ethic.

He put it to use on his education.

“I want to be as well-rounded as possible,” Lundy said.

Lundy earned his GED behind bars and aimed higher.

"When I started going to college, my first semester was horrible,” said Lundy.

Lundy found an inmate with a degree to tutor him.

He also did a lot of studying on his own.

“I got, like, a handful of grammar books and just read them, cover-to-cover, like three times a piece,” said Lundy.

It worked.

Lundy earned an Associate Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

While he was working toward that, he found another book, of poetry.

“I just started reading it and I was like, 'You know what? I can do this.' So then, I just sat down and started writing,” Lundy said.

Poetry was a way to process Lundy's dark, often scary new home.

“A man or a monster? That seems to be the debate. One act of impetuosity, and his life is taken away,” said Lundy, reading a selection of his poetry.

Those poems were also a happy release.

“The setting sun, a beautiful beacon of hope for another beautiful day to come, finally leaves us. Giving us its last colorful kiss,” Lundy read.

With that hope in mind, Lundy requested a sentence modification.

“The lawyer said, 'Oh, you know, I think it's looking good.' I mean, of course he's going to say that. I was, you know, elated. And then when they told me no, I was... I just felt sick,” said Lundy.

A judge praised Lundy's efforts to get an education in prison.

It wasn't enough.

Now Lundy is back to what he does best, keeping busy.

He started teaching himself computer coding as part of his prison work assignment.

“So I started doing that out of necessity, but then once I saw what could be done, I started enjoying it and seeing what I might be able to do if I learned more,” said Lundy.

Right now, Lundy could be released as early as 2022.

While he waits, he's left with a lingering question.

Is a long prison sentence the right choice for an immature minor with no other criminal record?

"You can't just put someone in this environment, as a kid with an underdeveloped mind, and expect him to, 'Oh well, time will get him right.' No, it won't,” said Lundy.

The Justice Policy Institute says jailing young people increases the likelihood they will commit suicide.

They're less likely to return to school or get a job.

They're more likely to re-offend.

Lundy says prisons need more funding for pro-social and educational programs.

The statistics are on his side.

A report from the National Research Council says inmates who participate in educational programs have a 43-percent lower chance of re-offending.

Their chances of getting a job after release are higher.

"I do think that a sentence like mine is appropriate, but it should be able to be amended,” said Lundy.

Lundy says he wouldn't wish prison on anyone, but for him it's been a good thing.

“I just feel like I'm so much sharper, so much more ready for life now,” said Lundy.

“When I want to do something, I'm going to do it and I'm very driven. So, if I want something, I'm going to get it.”

Lundy's supervisors told WSBT 22 he's a model inmate.

In fact, he was just transferred to the lower security Westville Correctional Facility.

Lundy says he could be granted work release within a year.

For the full report on how Colt Lundy is trying to give back, read part two of this special report.

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