COA affirms juvenile’s placement in DOC following exhaustion of ‘all reasonable efforts’

The Court of Appeals of Indiana has affirmed the placement of a Porter County juvenile in the Indiana Department of Correction following the failure of numerous and intensive rehabilitation efforts and lesser restrictive placements.

Trouble began for M.M. in March 2018, when he was adjudicated as a delinquent for having committed an act that would be Class A misdemeanor battery if committed by an adult. M.M. admitted that he had head-butted his teacher, which caused a laceration, loose teeth and pain.

Then, while awaiting disposition, M.M. struck his mother in the face and bit her finger, prompting him to again be adjudicated delinquent for having committed an act that would be Class A misdemeanor battery if committed by an adult.

A slew of additional delinquency charges were filed against M.M. over the next few years, including two acts that would be Level 5 felony battery if committed by an adult and one act that would be Class A misdemeanor battery if committed by an adult when he bit and kicked two detention officers and pushed his grandmother to the ground.

M.M. also got into another altercation with his mother and bit his uncle. In August 2020, he was again adjudicated as a delinquent for an act that would be Class A misdemeanor battery if committed by an adult when he battered two juveniles using sharp pieces of metal fragments.

After being placed at the Indiana United Methodist Children’s Home, M.M.’s placement was terminated when he pushed a staff member against a wall and threatened her with a shard of glass.

In November 2021, the Porter Circuit Court entered a modification order in each of M.M.’s battery cases, granting wardship of M.M. to the DOC.

M.M. appealed, arguing placement in a residential treatment program for juveniles would have been the least restrictive and best option for him. He argued the juvenile court abused its discretion by ordering wardship to the DOC.

“Here, M.M. had been in residential placement for approximately 56.5 months and in secure detention for 175 days. The placements included Crossroads Child and Family Services, Transitions Academy, Alternative House, Gibault Children’s Services, and IUMCH,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “With the exception of the Transitions Academy placement, M.M. was unsuccessfully discharged from each placement. M.M. had experienced violent outbursts, destroyed property, attacked other residents and staff members, and threatened to kill one staff member’s nine-year-old child by slitting the child’s throat.

“… In light of the failure of numerous and intensive efforts and lesser restrictive placements, we cannot say that the juvenile court order for placement in the DOC is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court,” Bailey concluded.

The case is M.M. v. State of Indiana, 21A-JV-2723.

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