- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

CARLISLE, Ind. (AP) - For most of the men of cell house N, the quarter-mile walk around the prison yard to the chow hall and back is just the price they pay for breakfast. The heavy steel doors open, and they surge forward into the predawn gloom, compelled by hunger.

For Colt Lundy, the push into the brisk morning air is driven as much by other things - the chance to move freely, to leave the confines of a cell the size of a walk-in closet, to breathe air that hasn’t been recirculated among hundreds of caged men.

And then there’s the night sky. This is his lone chance to look up and, with a little luck, see the moon.

Lundy’s second-floor cell at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility south of Terre Haute has a window, if you can call it that. But it is a narrow slit of glass that limits the view to just a few degrees of sky. On most nights, the moon is cropped out of the picture.

Most of his walks - to chow, to recreation, to his job in the prison library, to see family members in the visitor’s center - are sunlit excursions. His best chance to catch a glimpse of the heavens comes here and now, before sunup. He’s written a poem about these encounters that echoes a Moody Blues song, “Cold-hearted orb that rules the night was this morning absent from my sight.”

And so Lundy, clustered in a herd of prisoners clad in beige, waits behind the big steel doors with a question to start each day: Will the moon be out this morning? Or will the sky, like so much in Lundy’s life, be just one more impenetrable wall?

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The last time Lundy had a good long look at the night sky was four years ago, when he was 15. He and two other boys took off into the night in a car none of them was legally old enough to drive. He was anxious to head west, to put some distance between himself and Cromwell, a little town in northern Indiana between Fort Wayne and South Bend. Most of all, he was interested in putting some distance between himself and the dead body he’d left behind on the floor.

The crime was less sensational than the criminals and how they were punished. Two boys, ages 15 and 12, were each sentenced as adults and to 25 years in prison. The younger of the two boys, 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich, was believed to be the youngest child in Indiana ever sentenced as an adult.

Gingerich was so small that corrections officials took one look at him and assigned him to a prison for juveniles. It was no summer camp, but it had a school and counselors and a chance at a diploma. It even had monthly birthday parties.

In the tempest over the sentencing of the 12-year-old Gingerich, Lundy soon became an afterthought. He wasn’t much bigger than Gingerich, but he was three years older. And corrections officials shipped him to the maximum-security prison at Wabash, home to 2,000 of the worst criminals in the state. There was no chance at a high school diploma at Wabash. There were certainly no birthday parties.

Their handling became a case study - of two ways to reform two boys who committed the same crime.

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In Colt’s eyes, Phil Danner was a decent enough guy - when he was sober.

He had taken up with Colt’s mother, Robin, when the boy was still young and his father had drifted away. Phil taught Colt to ice fish, showed him the art of dirt bike maintenance, even showed him how to shoot a pellet gun.

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