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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ind. Courts - "Judge seeks Allen role in juvenile alternative program"

Rebecca S. Green reports today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

With a stroke of his pen, Allen Superior Judge Dan Heath signed what he hopes will be a watershed change for Allen County’s juvenile justice system.

Heath, who has been the juvenile judge in Superior Court’s Family Relations Division for just a few months, signed a letter of interest to be included in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. The community-based program moves low-risk youth from secure detention into alternative, evidence-based therapeutic programs.

Allen County already has a detention alternative program, which diverts about 45 percent of troubled juveniles away from the county’s detention center. But Heath believes more can, and should be done, to keep more kids out of lock-up.

“Declining budgets, along with new regulations from the federal government might require additional staff if the county can’t figure out how to lower its secure detention population,” Heath said in a written statement.

So he wants the county to be included in the national Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, already in place in eight Indiana counties. * * *

Marion County has been implementing the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative since 2006, according to state officials.

In 2010-11, the program expanded to Johnson, Porter, Lake and Tippecanoe counties. Last year, Elkhart, Howard and Clark counties joined, according to state officials.

This year, $6 million was added to the state’s budget to expand the program throughout the state, and the lead agencies involved in the program – the state’s Supreme Court, Department of Correction, and Criminal Justice Institute – have been trying to lay the foundation to expand it statewide, according to a newsletter about the program.

Heath wants Allen County to be included in the 2014 expansion of the program, and he is optimistic the county will make the cut.

The FWJG also has a lengthy editorial today lauding the decision.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 25, 2013 09:46 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts