Indiana Public Defender Council offering juvenile competency training as part of juvenile justice reform efforts

The Indiana Public Defender Council is offering training next month on juvenile competency assessment and attainment programming as part of a collective effort to reform the Hoosier State’s juvenile justice system.

The council is offering a one-day training for justice system stakeholders and service providers who deal with the complex issues of juvenile competency in delinquency proceedings. The training will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 31 at the Indiana State Library in Room 211.

Topics addressed during the training will include fundamental considerations ranging from warning signs and evaluation to attainment and/or transitional services.

Those interested in attending may register online. 

Janet Warren of the Juvenile Competency Attainment Research and Development Center at the University of Virginia, and Benjamin Skowysz, the juvenile justice program supervisor for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, will give the presentations.

The training was announced during an April 20 meeting of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana.

During that meeting, Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush led the commission in reviewing plans to implement House Enrolled Act 1359, a piece of legislation signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb last month that aims to reform the state’s juvenile justice system from top to bottom.

Pursuant to HEA 1359, the commission must create a juvenile oversight body that will be charged with seven key tasks related to the development of statewide plans to collect juvenile justice data and implement juvenile justice reforms.

Rush must make all appointments to the oversight body, including co-chairs of its working groups, by May 31.

Julie Whitman, executive director of the commission, said now that the bill has passed, it gives the commission a lot more work to do.

“Which is great actually, because it’s exactly the kind of work we should be doing,” Whitman said.

Indiana State Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, introduced HEA 1359 during the 2022 session of the Indiana General Assembly. The bill was formed from the findings of a 2021 Council of State Governments Justice Center report that identified numerous areas for reform in Indiana’s juvenile justice system.

Also during the April 20 meeting, commission members affirmed that the subcommittee studying the current state of juvenile diversion in Indiana would continue its work as part of the HEA 1359 implementation.

Additionally, the commission reviewed progress on its current strategic plan and discussed necessary follow-ups and ways to ensure its work is as impactful as possible. It concluded that its ongoing evaluation and continuous quality improvement project should produce more recommendations in that area by the end of the year.

The commission’s next meeting will be held from 10 a.m.-noon on June 22 at the Indiana State Library, History Reference Room.

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