STATEHOUSE —State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Mt. Vernon) authored House Bill (HB) 1108, which passed out of the Indiana Senate on Tuesday with a unanimous vote of 47-0. HB 1108 deals with sentencing alternatives for offenders under the age of 18.
The Indiana Department of Corrections (DOC) does not currently possess any alternatives to sentencing juveniles that are tried as adults due to the nature of their offense. HB 1108 provides adult court judges the discretion to sentence juvenile offenders more consistently with their offenses. Juveniles that are placed in adult facilities do not receive the same opportunities as they would in a juvenile facility. This can prevent the juvenile offenders from developing normally.
“Our intention is to reduce recidivism rates in the judicial system. To achieve that, this legislation aims to provide the courts with options,” said Rep McNamara. “This bill ensures that all juveniles receive the same opportunities to education, psychological counseling and other services available to youthful offenders.”
Direct file cases are the most difficult sentencing situations because there is not a “fail safe” measure that would allow the courts to invoke or return a case to juvenile jurisdiction. HB 1108 provides Indiana with a system for juveniles who are tried as adults. This system allows judges to suspend an adult conviction in favor of a young person staying under juvenile jurisdiction.
Should the juvenile become a safety or security risk in the juvenile system or upon turning 18 years of age or older, the adult sentence may be invoked at any time. The DOC will submit a progress report to the courts on the offender to determine if he/she is fit to reside in the juvenile system. National PREA standards now require the sight and sound separation of youthful offenders under the age of 18 from the adult offender population when they are sentenced as adults.
“Providing a sentencing alternative does not change the juvenile waiver process,” said Rep. McNamara. “The bill allows juveniles to be placed in an appropriate facility, and the facility assignment can change on a case-by-case basis from the Department of Correction’s report.”
Because of an amendment in the Senate, HB 1108 will now go to a conference committee.