McNamara: Addressing juvenile justice issues

Posted by: Jessica Baker  | Thursday, February 23, 2017 2:38 pm

Ensuring our kids succeed, regardless of their circumstances, has been and will remain a priority of mine. Whether it’s a student who is struggling in school that needs some extra help, or a kid who had a rough start to life and now finds themselves in the juvenile justice system, it is important to provide our kids with opportunities to better themselves.

A proposal I have authored would continue to help address ways to improve the lives of juveniles in the criminal justice system. More often than not, these kids who have ended up in our department of corrections have underlying issues that need addressed in order to reduce chances they will commit more crimes in the future.

The measure is part of a continued process to put juvenile justice issues at the forefront and ensure that their problems are addressed early, so they can have a better chance at improving their lives. House Bill 1218 builds upon the progress made through several laws enacted in previous sessions as we attempt to improve our responses to the needs of at-risk and incarcerated youth in Indiana.

I am working to add four people to the community corrections board, including a juvenile probation officer and one representative from the Department of Corrections, mental health sector or juvenile correctional facility, and Juvenile Detentions Alternative Initiative or CASA/guardian ad litem organization in the community.

These members have dealt with juvenile offenders and are experts when working with these unique circumstances. They would be able to make recommendations to the DOC on how to better handle the juveniles in the criminal justice system at the local level. These recommendations can also allow the communities to apply and receive grants from the DOC for juvenile justice issues.

Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry worldwide, and effects all corners of Indiana. This measure would also provide that a child who was the victim of human trafficking and declared as a delinquent for an act performed while a victim of human trafficking is entitled to have the delinquent status removed, if certain conditions are met.

House Bill 1218 would update the way current petitions of expungement of juvenile records are done. The data would be stored in a separate database system for statistical purposes in order to receive state grants for juvenile programs.

With this policy, we are taking steps to help those who are victims of this terrible crime, by removing their delinquent status and helping them recover from their past.

There are many factors involved when dealing with kids who have committed crimes, and working closely with experts in the justice system who have dealt with varying issues will help these kids escape a cycle of crime and become contributing members of our communities.

If you have any questions or input, call 317-232-9816 or email h76@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) represents portions of Posey and Vanderburgh counties.

A high-resolution photo of McNamara can be downloaded by clicking here.