[R76] Ensuring appropriate sentencing for juveniles (2/23/2012)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Start Date: 2/23/2012 All Day
End Date: 2/23/2012
Ensuring appropriate sentencing for juveniles

Crimes are committed every day by both young and old alike. This is especially highlighted when juveniles are those that are serving their debt to society. Some juveniles, because of their crime, are tried as adults. Though the court views them as adults, problems arise when a young adult is grouped in with older adults in correctional facilities.

This is why I authored House Bill 1365, which gives the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) judiciary options when sentencing juveniles. Passed out of the Senate committee on Wednesday, the bill allows the court to exercise dual jurisdiction over juveniles tried as adults and permits the IDOC to house juveniles who are appropriate in the Division of Youth Services.

This bill is needed to address a deficit in juvenile placement legislation in our state. Indiana is one of four Midwestern states that does not provide for alternative placements for juveniles tried as an adult. Already there are 32 states that have some form of reverse waiver, criminal blending sentencing, or both.

The legislation would also permit juveniles convicted as adults to remain in the juvenile justice system until they are more age appropriate for placement in the adult system. Youths sentenced under this section can be transferred to the adult system if they should prove to be unmanageable in the juvenile system.

The appropriate placement of youth sentenced as adults is critical to ensuring that adolescent development is not negatively influenced by the adult prison environment. We cannot expect a child to develop normally in such an environment and then return to the community in their 20’s as a rehabilitated, productive citizen.

Currently, our system only has two choices of where these juveniles can be placed. In the two options available, they miss out on attaining needed services that will aid them in becoming rehabilitated citizens. The passage of this bill makes these services available to them and hopefully begins to cut down on recidivism rates. This bill passed out of the House unanimously and is now eligible for discussion in the Senate.

We must have a judicial system that works to rehabilitate citizens and which gives discretion to judges when ruling on cases. It is essential that juveniles who are on the wrong path not be pushed further down that route, but rather that they be able to attain services that can help make them a productive citizen.