Initiative leads to fewer juvenile delinquency filings

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juvenile-chart-.gifThe number of youths finding themselves in the court system has been on a downward trend nationally and statewide, with the number of juvenile delinquency filings across Indiana steadily decreasing for the last decade.

Between 2006 and 2015, Indiana juvenile delinquency filings dropped from 27,835 to 14,297, a 48.6 percent decrease, according to the Indiana Supreme Court’s 2015 Judicial Service Report – Judicial Year in Review. Indiana court filings for juvenile status offenses, such as truancy, have also seen a decline, down 44.3 percent between 2006 and 2015. State judicial leaders credit a variety of initiatives designed to keep youth out of the court system for that decline, with the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative chief among them.

Beginning in Indiana counties in 2006, JDAI is a collaborative effort between the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, Department of Correction, Department of Child Services, and Family and Social Services Administration that is meant to offer alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders. The program is currently in 32 of Indiana’s 92 counties, which represents about 69 percent of Indiana youth ages 10 to 17.

Rather than automatically send juvenile offenders into the Department of Correction, JDAI offers alternative methods of discipline, such as day or evening reporting programs, home detentions, law enforcement “knock and talk” initiatives in which officers check in on young offenders at home, and curfew checks, said Nancy Weaver, juvenile strategist supervisor for the Indiana Supreme Court, which leads the JDAI effort.

david-steven-2015 David

Juvenile crime as a whole is on a downward trend, specifically in counties where there is a JDAI program, said Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steve David, who leads the judiciary’s JDAI efforts. The key to the initiative’s success is evidence-based decision-making, David said — that is, looking at statistics that show the most effective forms of punishment based on the severity of an offense.

Recidivism data is the most common evidence used in the JDAI realm, said Marion County Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores. The only legal bases for detaining a child in Indiana are if they are a danger to themselves or the community, or if they are at risk for not appearing in court, Moores said, but often juveniles are detained for behavior she described as “kids being kids,” such as mouthing off to an adult or authority figure.

“What we learned by reading data is that connecting and criminalizing behavior that otherwise would just be kids being kids, any connection to our system is a risk factor for increasing their chances of recidivism,” the judge said.

Although there are no specific types of offenses that juveniles are likelier to commit, Moores said any sort of violent crime, such as robbery or rape, or a crime involving a gun, could warrant detention. But absent those types of serious circumstances, JDAI has proven that lower-level offenders are better served through out-of-jail disciplinary measures, she said.

Recent data from the Indiana Department of Correction’s Division of Youth Services is evidence of the positive effects of initiatives such as JDAI, said Chris Blessinger, the division’s executive director. Since 2006, the average daily population of young offenders within the DOC has fallen more than 50 percent to around 444, Blessinger said.

But that decrease isn’t only the result of JDAI, Blessinger said. Within the DOC, the Division of Youth Services has worked to change the culture of incarceration to keep more kids out of prison, she said.

Using data-driven performance-based standards, the DOC and its Division of Youth Services tracks a wide variety of statistics, such as the safety of juveniles living in confinement; their access to necessary services, such as mental health treatment; the quality of the DOC’s reintegration services; and other similar initiatives. Using that data, which is officially recorded twice a year, Blessinger said the division can pinpoint specific areas that need improvement. Those improvements have led to lower average daily populations.

“We’re getting the rights kids in the right place in the right services,” Blessinger said.

The “right kids” are the highest-level offenders, Blessinger said. Often, those offenders are juveniles who have exhausted all other disciplinary options and are incarcerated as a last resort, she said.

Similarly, Devon McDonald, deputy director and chief general counsel of ICJI, said some Criminal Justice Institute initiatives have worked alongside JDAI in keeping kids out of the court system. For example, ICJI is a champion for “stay in school” initiatives, such as after-school reading and tutoring programs that encourage students to stick with their education all the way through high school while also keeping them off the streets during non-school hours.

Further, ICJI funds law enforcement training programs designed to help officers have better interactions with juveniles.

“Research indicates that a 14-year-old doesn’t have the same capacities as a 28-year-old. They’re more impulsive than anything else,” McDonald said. “These programs try to train law enforcement officers that when they initially contact these kids, they shouldn’t be coming up waving guns and badges, but instead should take a mentoring approach.”

David agreed that the downward trend in juvenile delinquency filings is the result of general juvenile justice reform efforts, but said he’s heard from law enforcement and probation officers that JDAI has been one of the most significant and impactful reforms.

However, the justice has also heard from juvenile judges that JDAI has made their job harder because they must examine more options when determining the appropriate sentence for a young offender. But that extra work is not a bad thing, David said. Rather, it’s a sign that the state judiciary is taking its juvenile justice reform efforts seriously and is looking for ways to keep youths engaged in their communities rather than isolated behind bars.

Moores agreed and said the advent of JDAI in Indiana has forced her to hone her critical-thinking skills and more closely examine her cases before making a juvenile disciplinary decision. Additionally, the success of JDAI in Indiana has led the judiciary to begin taking steps toward evidence-based decisions in both adult courts and in children in need of services cases, she said.

“It’s shocking that this hasn’t been done heretofore,” Moores said.•


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  1. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

  2. GMA Ranger, I, too, was warned against posting on how the Ind govt was attempting to destroy me professionally, and visit great costs and even destitution upon my family through their processing. No doubt the discussion in Indy today is likely how to ban me from this site (I expect I soon will be), just as they have banned me from emailing them at the BLE and Office of Bar Admission and ADA coordinator -- or, if that fails, whether they can file a complaint against my Kansas or SCOTUS law license for telling just how they operate and offering all of my files over the past decade to any of good will. The elitist insiders running the Hoosier social control mechanisms realize that knowledge and a unified response will be the end of their unjust reign. They fear exposure and accountability. I was banned for life from the Indiana bar for questioning government processing, that is, for being a whistleblower. Hoosier whistleblowers suffer much. I have no doubt, Gma Ranger, of what you report. They fear us, but realize as long as they keep us in fear of them, they can control us. Kinda like the kids' show Ants. Tyrannical governments the world over are being shaken by empowered citizens. Hoosiers dealing with The Capitol are often dealing with tyranny. Time to rise up: Back to the Founders! MAGA!

  3. Science is showing us the root of addiction is the lack of connection (with people). Criminalizing people who are lonely is a gross misinterpretation of what data is revealing and the approach we must take to combat mental health. Harsher crimes from drug dealers? where there is a demand there is a market, so make it legal and encourage these citizens to be functioning members of a society with competitive market opportunities. Legalize are "drugs" and quit wasting tax payer dollars on frivolous incarceration. The system is destroying lives and doing it in the name of privatized profits. To demonize loneliness and destroy lives in the land of opportunity is not freedom.

  4. Good luck, but as I have documented in three Hail Mary's to the SCOTUS, two applications (2007 & 2013),a civil rights suit and my own kicked-to-the-curb prayer for mandamus. all supported in detailed affidavits with full legal briefing (never considered), the ISC knows that the BLE operates "above the law" (i.e. unconstitutionally) and does not give a damn. In fact, that is how it was designed to control the lawyers. IU Law Prof. Patrick Baude blew the whistle while he was Ind Bar Examiner President back in 1993, even he was shut down. It is a masonic system that blackballs those whom the elite disdain. Here is the basic thrust: When I asked why I was initially denied, the court's foremost jester wrote back that the ten examiners all voted, and I did not gain the needed votes for approval (whatever that is, probably ten) and thus I was not in .. nothing written, no explanation, just go away or appeal ... and if you appeal and disagree with their system .. proof positive you lack character and fitness. It is both arbitrary and capricious by its very design. The Hoosier legal elites are monarchical minded, and rejected me for life for ostensibly failing to sufficiently respect man's law (due to my stated regard for God's law -- which they questioned me on, after remanding me for a psych eval for holding such Higher Law beliefs) while breaking their own rules, breaking federal statutory law, and violating federal and state constitutions and ancient due process standards .. all well documented as they "processed me" over many years.... yes years ... they have few standards that they will not bulldoze to get to the end desired. And the ISC knows this, and they keep it in play. So sad, And the fed courts refuse to do anything, and so the blackballing show goes on ... it is the Indy way. My final experience here: I will open my files to anyone interested in seeing justice dawn over Indy. My cases are an open book, just ask.

  5. Looks like 2017 will be another notable year for these cases. I have a Grandson involved in a CHINS case that should never have been. He and the whole family are being held hostage by CPS and the 'current mood' of the CPS caseworker. If the parents disagree with a decision, they are penalized. I, along with other were posting on Jasper County Online News, but all were quickly warned to remove posts. I totally understand that some children need these services, but in this case, it was mistakes, covered by coorcement of father to sign papers, lies and cover-ups. The most astonishing thing was within 2 weeks of this child being placed with CPS, a private adoption agency was asking questions regarding child's family in the area. I believe a photo that was taken by CPS manager at the very onset during the CHINS co-ocerment and the intent was to make money. I have even been warned not to post or speak to anyone regarding this case. Parents have completed all requirements, met foster parents, get visitation 2 days a week, and still the next court date is all the way out till May 1, which gives them(CPS) plenty of to time make further demands (which I expect) No trust of these 'seasoned' case managers, as I have already learned too much about their dirty little tricks. If they discover that I have posted here, I expect they will not be happy and penalized parents again. Still a Hostage.