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Burris' record outside prison is long, but inside short

The man thought to have killed five people in and around Gaffney was released 2.5 years short of his maximum sentence because of good behavior in prison. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd was one of the first people to ask why with such a long arrest record Patrick Burris wasn't still behind bars. "Folks, look at this. This is like 25 pages," said Lloyd, holding up Burris' arrest record at a press conference Monday. "At some point the criminal justice system is going to need to explain why this individual is out on the street. We owe that to the victims in this case, we owe that to the citizens who lived in terror for days." It wasn't the decision of a parole board that set Burris free, rather he was fulfilling the terms of his sentence. Patrick Burris had been out of prison just two months before police believe he began a killing spree. In 2001, Burris was convicted of three counts of breaking and entering. At that time, he was also labeled a habitual felon like larceny and forgery for a slew of convictions in several states. The habitual felon label pushed his maximum sentence to 10 years and 1 month in prison. But Burris worked his way down to just a month longer than the minimum sentence of 7 years and 9 months through good behavior and participation in education and work programs. Although the details aren't available, during his nearly 8 years in prison Burris had six infractions that included unauthorized tobacco and drug use and stealing. Keith Acree, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction says for an inmate that's not too bad. "When we look at his incarceration on the whole he was not a troublesome inmate, not a troublemaker, not a violent inmate. One who really did his time rather quietly and got out of the system," says Acree. A state legislative committee is currently reviewing a bill that would make only more serious felonies like drug trafficking and arson count toward habitual felon status. Under this scenario, Burris' string of convictions over ten years at least in North Carolina would not have qualified him as a habitual felon in 2001.