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Senate backs study of juvenile justice system

February 22, 2019

Concerns surrounding the way Indiana adjudicates and rehabilitates its juvenile offenders has resulted in the proposal of a summer interim committee to address how adequately the juvenile justice system is governed.

Authored by Republican Sens. Victoria Spartz and Aaron Freeman, Senate Concurrent Resolution 16 would assign an interim study committee the task of assessing the laws and policies concerning the adjudication and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Spartz presented her concerns before the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Tuesday, arguing that the numerous laws and polices regulating the juvenile justice system were overwhelming and worthy of discussion.

“I just want to suggest that we have a system that’s working properly, a good framework and to make sure these kids don’t fall through the cracks,” Spartz, of Noblesville, told the committee, “and that there are incentives to keep kids from crimes and that we have the right tools and techniques in place.”

Joel Wieneke spoke in support of the study committee, testifying on behalf of the Indiana Public Defender Council. As the Juvenile Defense Project’s post-disposition unit coordinator, Wieneke said many of his organization’s goals are not being met, but a summer study committee could help address some of the issues it faces.

“Some of our goals are that we get the appointment of trained and effective counsel for all kids in all proceedings where their liberties are at stake, where there’s a chance that they are going to be removed from their families,” Wieneke said. “We’ve discovered that’s not always happening.”

Wienke also said that while improvements have been made in keeping up with parents and rehabilitating families involved in child in need of services and termination of parental rights cases, the same can’t be said for juvenile offenders.

“The attorneys work with them (parents and families) to make sure services are being followed up with,” Wienke said. “But we’re not always doing that with the juveniles… we need to make sure that we’re doing a better job of consistently applying the law around the state.”

The committee unanimously passed SCR 16 with a 7-0 vote Tuesday, and the measure was likewise adopted by a voice vote in the Indiana Senate on Thursday. It now waits to be heard by the Indiana House of Representatives.

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