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Indiana juvenile justice bill first in nation

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In what started at a summit hosted by the Indiana State Bar Association in August, House Enrolled Act 1193, which authorizes a work study commission to consider various juvenile justice issues in Indiana, was signed by the governor March 17.

The commission will be made up of representatives of various people who oversee the juvenile justice system, as well as stakeholders who regularly work with children in and out of the classroom. Starting in July, the yet-to-be appointed commission members will begin meeting on a monthly basis to discuss best practices for handling juvenile justice matters, including what is happening in Indiana and in other states.

Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, who authored the bill, said she was pleased even though original language about mandatory training for police officers who deal with juveniles on a regular basis was deleted before it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee stated fiscal reasons for cutting the training portion from the bill.

Lawson, herself a retired police officer, said training could still be implemented at a later date, or the commission could recommend training based on their findings.

She added that according to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States, released March 17, Indiana had the highest percentage increase of people in prison from 2008 to 2009. She said the study by a non-partisan group affirmed what the bill was all about, which is the need for the various stakeholders in Indiana's justice system to think about what these statistics mean. That includes how those statistics relate to the juvenile justice system's statistics, which the Pew Center included in its research.

"Without being nudged or told, we already knew we needed to do something about kids being detained and arrested for unnecessary reasons," Lawson said. "I look forward to seeing the work group get started, and I'm anxious to see the end result."

JauNae Hanger, a civil rights attorney in Indianapolis who helped organize the summit, and Judge Steven Teske, a juvenile judge in Clayton County, Ga., who spoke at the ISBA's conference and testified before the Senate and House judiciary committees in support of the bill, agreed.

"Just because training was cut out for economic reasons, remember this is a commission to study and make recommendations," Judge Teske said. "As revenues come back and increase, the group can make the recommendation to have training."

Hanger added that the commission will also be inclusive to "a broad, diverse group of stakeholders" including mental health professionals, social workers, educators, police officers, judges, and attorneys who will all be able to voice their opinions.

"Given the fact the issue of zero tolerance has hit the national scene in the news and has been getting a lot of attention, and with this type of statewide legislation studying zero tolerance in order to make statewide changes, it is my opinion that Indiana will become a trendsetter," he said.

He added it has already happened in Georgia.

On March 18, the Georgia State Senate unanimously passed a bill regarding zero tolerance. Sen. Emanuel Jones, who authored that legislation, is a Democrat in a state where both houses have Republican majorities.

However, Judge Teske said Republican senators were among those who asked if that bill went far enough when discussing it before the Senate Education and Youth Committee.

As a result of those questions, Judge Teske told the committee he and Jones would work together over the summer on more comprehensive legislation to draw up and submit for the 2011 session.

"These senators are familiar with what Indiana is doing and that was the impetus to start looking at this one piece of legislation to say, 'Is this enough? Should we not be doing more, like Indiana?'" he said.

Russell Skiba, who testified on behalf of the bill as a national expert on zero tolerance policies and professor in counseling and educational psychology at Indiana University - Bloomington, also praised the bill.

"Schools and school districts and states around the country are looking for guidance on how to get a handle on some of these issues," he said. "This bill puts Indiana at the forefront of defining these issues."

Matthew C. Aalsma, professor of pediatrics and psychology at Indiana University School of Medicine, who testified on behalf of the bill, said via e-mail, "The goal of these efforts, from my perspective, is to divert more low-risk/mentally ill youth away from the juvenile justice and detention setting to allow for treatment and other protective factors to develop. Diversion is more possible when school police officials receive training in de-escalation of youth with mental illness/special education needs."

Dr. Margaret J. Blythe, who works with Aalsma at the medical school and at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center, added via e-mail that she was pleased the bill promoted the commission, but added she was "disappointed" the bill didn't include training requirements. However, because "virtually all law enforcement agencies had representatives that testified in favor of the bill" she said this was a sign of "a community awareness and need to address these issues."

Judge Teske said he was impressed with the involvement of the ISBA on the conference and resulting legislation.

"I don't know that I know of too many state bars that have gotten this active in addressing something as significant and comprehensive as this," he said.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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