State Rep. Hatcher addresses justice for juveniles

IBLC, News & Media

INDIANAPOLIS — State Representative Ragen Hatcher (D-Gary) applauds the passing of Senate Bill 368 on juvenile justice, which the Senate adopted in its final form today.

“I am proud of my colleagues in both chambers for passing this bill that will help our children, especially children of color,” Hatcher said. “Children deserve a fair trial and to be housed properly while waiting for trial; that means being placed in a juvenile court and a juvenile facility — when assessed and determined as competent — and not with adult inmates.”

SB 368 automatically expunges juvenile offenses for misdemeanors and prohibits a juvenile arrestee to be housed with adult inmates prior to trial. In 2020, there were 157 children in Indiana under the jurisdiction of adult courts because they were either directly filed or waived. Lake County had 10 children tried as adults.

It also establishes a procedure to allow a court to decide whether a child is competent to be tried as a delinquent. Normally, children younger than 14 are ordered to have a competency hearing, which means this could affect 1,940 children based on Indiana’s juvenile delinquency filings in 2019. The procedure requires the court to have a psychiatrist or psychologist to evaluate the child, unless the child has representation and waives the competency evaluation.

A juvenile court could also assess a child by dual status, both under Children in Need of Services and juvenile court jurisdiction.

“This is a good step, but it is only one step in addressing our court system and how it treats our children,” Hatcher said. “We must move forward in breaking the school-to-prison pipeline. That means addressing the root problem of our juvenile justice system and the institutional racism within the system that disproportionately places our Black children in adult courts.”

SB 368 now heads to the governor’s desk for signing.

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