« Ind. Decisions - Transfer list for week ending June 3, 2011 | Main | Ind. Courts - 7th Circuit redaction cautions »

Monday, June 06, 2011

Ind. Courts - "Indiana Juvenile justice behind the curve?"

Susan Brown had the story this morning in the NWI Times. The long story begins:

States are taking a hard look at when juvenile offenders should be treated as adults, even as Indiana opens the door wider to prosecuting juveniles as adults.

Connecticut, has stopped treating all 16-year-olds as adults. Similarly, Wisconsin have upped the age limits at which certain offenders may remain under juvenile jurisdiction.

According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, at least 38 states in 2007 set 17 as the oldest age at which defendants come under juvenile jurisdiction.

Indiana is among them. But since the 1980s, lawmakers have more than tripled the types of crimes for which 16- and 17-year-old juveniles are automatically prosecuted in adult court.

"They just keep taking crimes away from us," Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura said.

Bonaventura said, overall, Indiana has taken a "middle of the road" path compared to more hard-line states such as New York, which treats all 16-year-old offenders as adults.

"But we can do better," she said.

Lawmakers have given juvenile courts no jurisdiction over 17 offenses, from attempted murder to dealing in certain drugs if the defendant is at least 16. That's up from perhaps four offenses since the mid-1980s, according to Jeff Bercovitz, an attorney with the Indiana Judicial Center.

And once waived to adult court, repeat offenders find themselves "always waived," Bercovitz said.

From later in the story:
The tightening of juvenile laws in Indiana comes at a time when Bonaventura and other juvenile justice advocates cite research by the National Institutes of Health showing that advanced functions of the brain do not fully mature until well into early adulthood.

The study was used in a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing the death penalty for those younger than 18.

Bonaventura believes the research argues for Indiana creating a youthful offender law, which would offer the rehabilitative benefits of juvenile court into early adulthood, perhaps even until age 25.

"If we know our brains change up to the age of 25 and that's why insurance companies drop their cost (at that age), maybe we should have something available until that age," she said of expanding the purview of the juvenile justice system to older teens and young adults.

Critics contend the extra costs of rehabilitation offered through juvenile courts may be prohibitive, but Bonaventura counters that it actually costs more to house a prisoner.

"We're going to pay now, or we're going to pay later," she said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 6, 2011 11:10 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts