Sunday, August 25, 2013
Ind. Law - "New sentencing law combines juvenile rehabilitation with adult punishment"
Vic Ryckaert's long report today is on the front-page of the Sunday Indianapolis Star. Some quotes:
[15-year-old Gabriel] Edwards is the first youth in Marion County — perhaps the state — to go to trial under a sweeping new law that puts greater emphasis on rehabilitation and grants judges much more flexibility in handling violent offenders who are 15 years old or younger.ILB: Although the story never identifies the new law, it is HEA 1108, "Sentencing alternatives for youthful offenders."
That flexibility, however, cuts both ways. It means some violent offenders might never set foot in a prison. But it also likely means more juveniles might be tried as adults and, thus, potentially spend more time behind bars.
Under the old system, judges had one chance to decide whether a youth accused of a violent crime should be tried as a juvenile or adult. And that difference is significant. Those sentenced as juveniles have much better access to schooling and counseling, but they must be released before age 22 and more typically are freed around age 18, regardless of the severity of their crime. Those sentenced as adults serve much longer sentences and in a much harsher prison setting.
But the law that took effect July 1 creates an option that tries to combine the opportunity for rehabilitation with the threat of an adult prison sentence. Judges can sentence juveniles as adults but send them to a juvenile facility, where proponents of the law say there would be more supervision, better educational opportunities and a better chance to turn their lives around. Then, at age 18 when it’s time for the juvenile to be moved to an adult prison, there will be another hearing before a judge.
If the 18-year-old can convince the judge he or she has straightened out, the judge can suspend the rest of the sentence. The young man or woman would then walk free, but any slip-up and he or she could be sent to adult prison to serve out the rest of the sentence.
If, however, the judge is not swayed that the person has sufficiently reformed, the judge can require the 18-year-old to fulfill the remainder of the adult sentence in prison — a potentially powerful incentive for juveniles to change their ways.
“This certainly gives judges more flexibility and allows for changes two, three, four years down the road, after they see that a child’s been rehabilitated,” said Joel Schumm, a criminal-law professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. * * *
Before the new law, Indiana had long faced criticism about how it dealt with those who were too young to truly be adults, but too violent to entrust to the juvenile system, where the jurisdiction ends when a person turns 22. That criticism has focused more acutely on juveniles sentenced as adults who then spend their formative years in a penitentiary before being returned to the community in their 20s or 30s — often as hardened criminals.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 25, 2013 11:12 AM
Posted to Indiana Law