STATEHOUSE —State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Mt. Vernon) authored House Bill (HB) 1108, which passed out of the Indiana House of Representatives on Tuesday with an 88 to 9 vote.
House Bill (HB) 1108 deals with sentencing alternatives for offenders under the age of 18. Currently, the Indiana Department of Corrections does not possess any alternatives to sentencing juveniles that are tried as adults due to the nature of their offense. This bill allows adult court judges the discretion to sentence juvenile offenders more consistently with their offenses, possibly preventing them from being placed in an adult facility.
“Providing a sentencing alternative does not change the juvenile waiver process,” said Rep. McNamara. “It merely provides adult courts with a sentencing option for youth under the age 18 who have been waived or direct-filed into the adult court system.”
Direct file cases provide the courts with the most challenging sentencing situations as there is no “fail safe” measure that would allow the courts to invoke or return a case to juvenile jurisdiction. HB 1108 provides Indiana with such a system for youth tried as adults. This system allows judges to suspend an adult conviction in favor of continued juvenile jurisdiction.
The adult sentence can be invoked at any time should the youth become a safety or security risk in the juvenile system or upon turning 18 years or older. New national PREA standards require the sight and sound separation of youthful offenders under the age of 18 from the adult offender population when sentenced as adults.
“This bill is truly about providing options to courts and fostering a judicial system that is focused on reducing recidivism,” said Rep McNamara. “The difference in maturity level between juveniles and adults is the fundamental reason why judges need the flexibility to make the most appropriate sentences.”
In cases where a juvenile is committed to an adult facility, they are not afforded opportunities such as education credits that can be transferred to accredited high schools in Indiana. The aspect of education plays a major role in reducing recidivism since offenders who have a college degree at the time of their release have a significantly lower return rate than those who have not obtained a GED.
HB 1108 will now be sent to the Senate for further consideration.