Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana (CPLI) is a member of the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), a founding organization of the Indiana Coalition for Youth Justice, and critical advocate for juvenile justice issues in the Hoosier state. CPLI has partnered with both national and statewide organizations in support of Senate Bill 368 and its shift toward developmentally-appropriate, equitable treatment of children in the justice system.
CPLI is joined by representatives from the Sentencing Project, Indiana Public Defender Council, MCCOY, the Indianapolis Urban League, and VOICES, Inc. to endorse the proposed legislation. This bill is intended to confront systemic racism, disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, and protect children in the justice system from dangerous and overly punitive practices. If passed, this legislation will: 1) help prohibit detention of minors in facilities for adults; 2) create Indiana’s first competency to stand trial requirements for juveniles; and 3) implement a system for automatic expungement of juvenile records, among other potential changes for children.
Indiana stands to lose about $800,000 a year in federal prevention funding under the 2018 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act if it does not pass legislation to prohibit pretrial detention of minors in adult state facilities. Youth in the adult criminal justice system are 200% more likely to face physical assault, and 36 times more likely to commit suicide. “It is clear that reforms are needed,” CPLI President JauNae Hanger says. “We must make changes in our laws and public policies to embrace developmentally-appropriate and culturally-responsive practices for children.”
At each decision point in Indiana’s justice system for children, racial disparities persist. According to Chalkbeat, school police are 2.5 times more likely to arrest Black students than white students in Indiana. 2018-2019 Indiana Criminal Justice Institute data indicates 70% of the children directly filed or waived to adult court were Black, despite Black youth being 35% of those in juvenile court. Moreover, Indiana is one of only five states in the country that do not have statewide competency to stand trial requirements for juveniles. This has resulted in uncertainty and confusion among lawyers and judges, as well as inconsistent results for children, trying to process the ambiguities of the law.
This bill, authored by Senator Karen Tallian, will be heard by the Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law on Tuesday, February 9, 2021. “These changes are good for the safety of children and the public, and are critical steps in addressing the harms on black and brown children who continue to be over-represented in the Indiana court system, despite engaging in delinquent behavior at equal rates to their white peers,” says Marcy Mistrett, Senior Fellow at the Sentencing Project. CPLI encourages organizations and individuals to join a virtual press conference on Monday, February 8, 2021 from 1:00 – 2:00 PM. Register for the Zoom Conference here.