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Detaining questions

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Juvenile Justice

What happens in the courtroom is only one piece of the juvenile justice puzzle. Youth detention and alternative detention programs represent costly components of the juvenile justice system that are currently experiencing some of the most dramatic reforms at the state level. Amid court challenges and legislative changes, detention funding questions are arising at a time when Indiana ranks fourth in the nation for how many children it locks up and as counties push alternative programs designed to limit the number of juveniles being sent to state and secure detention facilities.

A report released in early April by a national child advocate group, the Every Child Matters Education Fund based in Washington, D.C., shows that Indiana's per capita juvenile incarceration rate for children ages 10 through 17 is 415.4 per 100,000 juveniles. Only Florida, South Dakota, and Wyoming have worse records. And Indiana is 473 percent higher than the Vermont, the state that locks up the fewest juveniles. The report states that juveniles in the worst 10 states are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as those in the best-ranked states.

Marion County Juvenile

Indiana Department of Correction figures show that about 1,014 juveniles were incarcerated as of Jan. 1, 2008, at the state's seven facilities, a steady increase from previous reports. More than 80 percent are males.

"Detention isn't good for kids," Marion Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores said."When you put (juvenile) shoplifters with kids charged with armed robbery, that shoplifter is going to rise to that higher level  not the opposite."

Detention decisions

At the local level, Hoosier counties can look at their own jurisdictions and see a reflection of the report's findings, though many are working to limit the number of juveniles locked up in favor of placement alternatives. There are about two dozen secure detention facilities in Indiana, with local juvenile courts or county officials administering most of them and traditionally using county funds to pay detention costs.

Late last year, St. Joseph Juvenile Judge Peter Nemeth stopped sending female offenders to a state-run juvenile center in Indianapolis because he felt it lacked sufficient staffing and adequate services; in an open letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels, he cited claims of girls being "warehoused" and accusations of sexual contact.

The Marion County Juvenile Detention Center has undergone a transformation since a 2006 investigation and audits found unsafe conditions for staff and detainees -- concerns echoed at facilities nationwide and spelled out in lawsuits against facilities in at least 11 states in recent years. In the state's largest county, the U.S. Department of Justice has scrutinized the county-run juvenile detention center for nearly two years because of concerns about issues such as violence and education, but earlier in April the federal department filed a settlement agreement to continue monitoring for another three years to make sure improvements are being made.

Judge Moores is proud of the alternative detention options the county has utilized, as well as a new risk-assessment tool being used to determine whether kids should be detained. Since she took the bench in 2005 and the detention center's jurisdiction shifted from the Juvenile Court to the Superior Court Executive Committee, the 144-bed facility has gone from average daily populations of about 200 -- with kids staying on cots and floors  to a current average daily population in the mid- to high 90s, according to her court's figures.

While some counties can be seen as examples of why detention shouldn't be the first or most common option chosen when deciding how to handle juvenile offenders, the reform efforts can be commendable, advocates say. But so much of it comes to funding, and they admit that's part of the problem now facing the juvenile justice system.

Funding

fundingDetention alternatives work the best, as juveniles and those in the trenches point out, but it can be difficult to utilize in areas of Indiana where funding and resources are scarce.

"We have too many kids we throw away," said Janet Peterson, a Lake County supervisor for the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force. "We have programs that work and can stop them from becoming a permanent problem in the adult system."

In Marion County alone, about 300 youths were securely detained in 2007 who would have been released had additional appropriate alternatives to secure detention been available, according to Gael Deppert, who leads the Marion County Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative. The total price tag came to almost $1.14 million last year for those juveniles, breaking down to about $253 per day to detain a juvenile and an average of about $3,795 per child for an average 15-day stay.

That's not even looking at overall child-welfare costs, estimated to be about $100 million a year in the county. The statewide costs are in the ballpark of $440 million annually to provide services to abused and neglected children and families, and youth in the juvenile justice system.

In Wayne County, public defender Kaarin Lueck said that too often the only option is secure detention because alternatives aren't available in more rural counties.

"You have to turn to the DOC, and that's not the intent of the delinquency system," she said.

That funding issue is now one that's playing out on two fronts -- the Indiana Court of Appeals and the General Assembly. The COA is considering Marion County and St. Joseph County v. State of Indiana, 73A01-0705-CV-238, which has statewide implications regarding who must pay to operate juvenile detention facilities  the state or individual counties. The counties sued in 2005 after Indiana tried to recover about $75 million it spent operating juvenile detention facilities in those two areas, and a Shelby County judge last spring ruled in favor of the state.

During arguments April 17, the counties argued that a 1953 law violated the Indiana Constitution when it allowed the state to charge counties for housing juveniles in the Indiana boys' and girls' schools, now the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Hurt That case comes just as the state's juvenile justice system is prepping for a new law to begin next year, effectively shifting juvenile detention costs from the counties to the state.

Buried within hundreds of pages of sweeping property tax reform passed by the General Assembly this year and signed into law by the governor in March are several provisions that mean juvenile courts could lose some say on children in the state's care.

Juvenile judges, attorneys, and advocates worry what the new law will mean for children in the system, while proponents emphasize how this will expand Indiana's ability to collect federal reimbursements and make the process more efficiently centralized through the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Key parts of the law impacting the juvenile justice system include:

• DCS must sign off on plans ordered by judges for abused and neglected children and their families, and juvenile courts must submit recommendations for services, programs, or placements of a delinquent child to DCS for preapproval.

• Provides the DCS is not responsible for the costs of child services if the juvenile court has not entered the required findings and the DCS has determined the child otherwise meets the Title IV-E eligibility requirements.

• In all cases, if the juvenile court orders services, programs, or placements that are not eligible under Title IV-B or Title IV-E and are not recommended or approved by the DCS, the DCS is not responsible to pay the costs of those services, programs or placements.

• If either party doesn't agree with the other's findings, the court or DCS can appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals and go through an expedited appellate review process that's currently being established.

Small countiesIndiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard doesn't see danger, although he admits it will take time to sort through the enormous changes and opposition is likely because of the traditional local control.

"It's far from certain where all of this will shake out, but it's all about doing what's favorable to the interests of children," he said. "Kids won't get shuffled back and forth depending on who's paying the bill."

Lake Juvenile Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura said she has confidence that the DCS wants to do right by kids and that obstacles in this law can be overcome, including the concerns about a tighter timeline in making some of these juvenile justice decisions.

"This certainly is going to put a new spin on what we do, but the courts will ultimately decide what's in the best interest of the children," she said.

The DCS and director James Payne, former juvenile judge in Marion County, did not return phone calls or e-mails from Indiana Lawyer seeking an interview for this story.

In Marion County, Judge Moores predicts the changes will create funding challenges for the juvenile court system. While the state is picking up the tab for state-detained juveniles, it isn't taking responsibility for all the services and programs currently being paid through the county funds. That means alternative detention programs and mental health diversion programs in place statewide could be in danger, unless counties find a way to raise money for those options, she said.

Small counties 2"Small counties have struggled without centralization and that's what everyone's wanted, but this is a case of 'Be careful what you ask for.' The entire funding system is being centralized, and this is akin to the executive branch trying to direct the judicial. I certainly understand the need for a homogenous approach across the state, but this may have unintended consequences that do more harm than good."

 Amy Karozos, an attorney with the Youth Law T.E.A.M. of Indiana and chair of the Indiana State Bar Association's Civil Rights of Children Committee, worries that more secure detentions or DOC placements could result from this new law.

"That's a possibility because there won't be as many options or services as there were to kids in the delinquency system," she said. "But right now, no one is sure what effects it may have."

Advocates working on the front lines remain optimistic, despite the obstacles.

Alternative detention efforts will continue trying to cut the number of incarcerated youth, even as juvenile justice officials work to sort out funding and procedural questions, they say.

"We're the early warning system for the entire criminal justice system, and we need to get at the root of the problem," Judge Moores said. "Detention and alternatives should be nurturing and educational for kids ... . We're not there yet, and it's disappointing, but Rome wasn't built in a day."

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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