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Monday, March 09, 2015

Ind. Courts - "Judges lobby for screening for young offenders"

Maureen Hayden, CNHI, reported this weekend in the Greensburg Daily News. The story begins:

Pushed by juvenile court judges, the state may soon change how it treats young offenders.

Lawmakers are considering a proposal to force court officials and child welfare advocates to work together to screen juveniles for abuse, neglect or mental illness after their arrests.

Advocates for the measure include Henry County Circuit Court Judge Mary Willis, who says a “tough on crime” approach is failing the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“The kid who steals a candy bar and a Gatorade from the corner store is too often treated just as a thief,” Willis said. “And only later do we find out that he committed the crime because there’s no food in the house because his parents are running a meth lab.”

Willis is president of the Indiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, which has long pushed for changes in how young offenders are treated.

Willis and others on the council worry that the state relies too much on the criminal justice system to deal with troubled youth, when many would be better served by social services.

The council has worked with Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, and Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, to craft legislation aimed at “crossover youth” - those funneled into the criminal justice system as perpetrators who’d be better served by the child welfare system if treated as victims.

Their legislation requires screening of juveniles who are arrested to determine if they’ve been abused, neglected or endangered. A team including a prosecutor, public defender and child welfare worker must then recommend to a judge how the case should be handled.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 9, 2015 11:20 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts