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Bangert: As DCS roils in Indy, local advocates for neglected kids ‘soldier on’

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Journal & Carrier on 01/06/2018 by Dave Bangert

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – By all accounts, it was just a normal day Wednesday in the fourth-floor courtroom of Tippecanoe Superior 3, where the county’s child neglect cases are heard.

Sixty miles to the south, Indiana House and Senate leaders were gaveling in the 2018 General Assembly session Wednesday afternoon with a vow that they weren’t going to get caught up this session with a crisis brewing in Indiana’s child neglect and welfare system.

What they’d read and heard since the December resignation letter from Mary Beth Bonaventura surfaced – specifically the former Department of Child Services director’s claim that cuts under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration “all but ensure children will die” – wasn’t enough for the legislature to jump in right away.

Or, maybe it was too big for one 10-week legislative session.

“The same stories that we all heard from case workers in the past, I’m still hearing,” Sen. David Long, the Senate president, said. “It’s not Gov. Holcomb’s fault – it’s a systemic issue.”

Business as usual, in other words.

Appellate Court Affirms Battery Conviction, Probation Condition

Full Article on 01-09-18 by Olivia Covington

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a man’s battery conviction and probationary prohibition on possession of a firearm, finding the trial court did not err in the process of hearing testimony and imposing a sentence.

In Robert Wilder v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1706-CR-1420, Robert Wilder operated a food truck next to an Indianapolis restaurant known as The Tailgate, owned by Dennis Turpen. One day, Turpen was parked behind his restaurant to unload supplies, creating what Wilder believed to be an obstruction that would prevent his son from driving through a nearby alley.

When Turpen refused Wilder’s command to move his vehicle, Wilder became angry and began a physical altercation that ended with Wilder tackling Turpen and banging his face onto the ground. Wilder fled the scene, but both Turpen and William Camp, a witness, called 911.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Detective Kevin Duley interviewed Wilder and Camp and eventually submitted the case for prosecution. Wilder was charged with Class A misdemeanor battery resulting in bodily injury, but argued the police had botched the investigation by failing to interview him or his son.

Duley, however, testified for the state that he believed there was sufficient evidence the battery had occurred as Turpen and Camp described it, considering Camp “did not have a dog in the fight.” Wilder was then found guilty as charged and was sentenced to probation. The court also imposed, over Wilder’s objection, a probation condition that prohibited him from possessing a firearm during his one-year probationary period.

Wilder then appealed, arguing first that the Marion Superior Court committed fundamental error by failing to sua sponte exclude Duley’s testimony under Rule of Evidence 704(b). But the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected that argument Tuesday, with Judge Mark Bailey writing that even if Duley’s testimony was an improper legal conclusion, it was admissible because Wilder “opened the door” to that testimony when he challenged the sufficiency of the police investigation.

The appellate court also rejected Wilder’s challenge of the probationary condition prohibiting him from using a firearm, finding the condition did not violate his rights under the Second Amendment or Article 1, Section 32 of the Indiana Constitution. That’s because Wilder’s actions showed a propensity toward violence, the court said, so the state’s goal of preventing him from committing more violence while on probation was furthered by the probation condition.

“Furthermore, the probation officer/probationer relationship is one that can become fraught with tension, as the probation officer has the power to regular the probationer’s behavior in ways that may be unwelcome and the power to seek a revocation of probation that could result in incarceration,” Bailey wrote. “…Decreasing the risk that officers will encounter violent, armed probationers is a significant and legitimate law enforcement need.”

Annual State of the Judiciary Address 2018: “A Hope-Filled Future”

Full Article on 1/10/2018

(Article link includes full video)


Governor Holcomb, Lt. Governor Crouch, Members of the General Assembly, State leaders, and Judges, welcome to the 2018 State of the Judiciary. Today I fulfill my constitutional responsibility of reporting on Indiana’s judiciary, which I am pleased to say is renewed, respected, and resolved. In a word, strong.

Let’s begin by talking about the happiest day in court: Adoption Day. What you just saw on the monitors were the hope-filled faces of some of the 220 children in 33 Indiana courthouses—children who joined their forever families in November. The Supreme Court allowed the use of cameras in court for Adoption Day proceedings, and we wanted to share these moments with you. We are immensely proud to do our part in making Indiana one of the most adoption-friendly states in the country.

The 4,100 adoption cases were but a fraction of the 1,316,714 cases filed in our trial courts this past year. These cases ranged from business litigation to foreclosures, from family violence to property rights, from human trafficking to elder abuse and, of course, to the drug crisis.

These cases tell dramatic stories of our children, our families, our neighbors, our communities—in essence, the story of our Hoosier state. Thanks to the extraordinary men and women of Indiana’s judicial branch, we are delivering justice in every courthouse across the state, and we’re firmly poised to meet future challenges.

The Drug Crisis

In preparing these remarks, I asked your leadership what you would like included in this address. Thank you, Governor Holcomb, President Long, Speaker Bosma, Leaders Pelath, Goodin, and Lanane, for your time and input. There was a common theme to your responses: how is the judiciary addressing the opioid crisis?

Addiction has swept into every community and is flooding every court—and not just in Indiana, but across our country. This past year, I was appointed co-chair of the National Judicial Opioid Task Force.

People often ask me the same question they are asking you: what can we do about this crisis? I have only one answer: together, we must do everything. This is a situation where well-reasoned, evidence-based judicial interventions can get people to treatment, give consequences, cut the supply, support families, and save lives.

Your judiciary is responding by:

  • Convening teams from each county this July to participate in extensive training on treatment for substance use disorder that works;
  • Developing with partners a judicial toolbox for effective and evidence-based court-ordered drug treatment;
  • Extending the reach of our problem-solving courts; we expect to have over 100 such courts by the end of this year;
  • Advancing drug courts in child welfare cases that involve the entire family in the parents’ treatment;
  • Expanding our corps of CASA volunteers to support the children of parents swept up in the horrors of addiction;
  • Supporting community corrections, pretrial, and jail-based programs so treatment begins as early as possible;
  • Leveraging court technology to slow the supply of drugs from hitting Indiana streets; and
  • Supporting your efforts to expand treatment and prevention programs in our communities.

Yes, we are doing all of this and more to combat the drug crisis.

While opioids are currently our most emergent challenge, we confront many others. To better position our judiciary to face future challenges, the Indiana Supreme Court has made several strategic decisions. And today, I want to highlight three.

  • First, we completed an extensive reorganization of the entire judicial branch administrative structure.
  • Second, we expanded and improved our technology.
  • And finally, we enhanced our judicial branch training by making it more rigorous.

Continue reading →

Divided COA again allows sentence modification in fixed-sentence agreement

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The Indiana Lawyer on 1/11/2018 by Olivia Covington

A divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a trial court to reconsider a sentence modification for an offender who agreed to a fixed-sentence plea agreement, a ruling that goes against proposed legislation currently pending before an Indiana Senate committee. However, in his first writing as an appellate senior judge, former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker dissented from the majority ruling.

After being charged with multiple charges related to drunk driving, Alberto Rodriguez pleaded guilty to Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated and to being a habitual vehicular substance offender. The agreement required Rodriguez to serve six years on the Elkhart County Work Release program in exchange for the state dropping all other charges against him.

The Elkhart Superior Court accepted the agreement in January 2016, but Rodriguez moved for a modification one year later, alleging his placement had caused undue hardship on his family. The trial court denied Rodriguez’s motion, finding Indiana statute deprived the court of authority to modify the fixed-sentence plea agreement.

But a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed that denial Thursday in Alberto Baiza Rodriguez v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1704-CR-724, with Judge Terry Crone writing for the majority joined by Judge Paul Mathias that Indiana Code section 35-38-1-17(l) does not permit a person to “waive the right to sentence modification under this section as part of a plea agreement.” Crone also noted the agreement allowed the trial court to modify Rodriguez’s sentence only if he became incarcerated, which he did not.

“The trial court essentially concluded that by entering into a plea agreement with a fixed sentence to be served on work release, Rodriguez waived the right to modification of that sentence,” Crone wrote. “But that is precisely what Section 35-38-1-17(l) prohibits in no uncertain terms as a violation of public policy; it does not distinguish between implicit or explicit waivers, and we may not read such a distinction into the statute.”

Thus, the majority determined section (l), when harmonized with sections 35-35-3-3(e) and 35-38-1-17(e) preserves a defendant’s right to modification in fixed plea agreements. The majority remanded Rodriguez’s case for further proceedings, also drawing on precedent from State v. Stafford, 86 N.E.3d 190, 193 (Ind. Ct. App. 2017).

The Stafford court held that, “Unless and until the General Assembly clarifies the statute at issue, it clearly and unambiguously states that offenders ‘may not waive the right to sentence modification … as part of a plea agreement.’” The General Assembly is currently taking steps to offer that clarification through Senate Bill 64, which would allow modifications of fixed-sentence agreements only with prosecutorial consent.

Former Justice and now Senior Judge Robert Rucker also disagreed with the ruling that fixed plea agreements may be modified, pointing to language in section (l) that holds the statute “does not prohibit the finding of waiver of the right to sentence modification for any other reason” not included “as part of the plea agreement.”

“In particular, the trial court lacked the authority to modify Rodriguez’s sentence from work release not because of a ‘waive(r) to the right of sentence modification … as part of a plea agreement,’” Rucker wrote. “Instead, the trial court lacked such authority for a wholly different reason – or in the language of the statute, ‘for any other reason’ – namely: because of the bargain Rodriguez struck with the State of Indiana that his sentence would be served with a specific entity.”

“In essence, it does not appear the Legislature intended to repeal long-standing statutory authority or to overrule long-standing judicial precedent by the enactment of (section (l)),” Rucker wrote, echoing the arguments put forth by supporters of SB 64.

The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee is currently considering SB 64, while Stafford will go before the Indiana Supreme Court for oral arguments on Jan. 25.


Legal sports betting in Indiana anticipated by lawmaker’s bill

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The Indy Star on 1/5/2018 by Mark Alesia

An Indiana Senate bill filed Friday would allow the state’s riverboats, racinos and their satellite facilities to offer legal sports betting if federal prohibitions are lifted.

SB 405, introduced by Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, follows similar bills or laws in at least 10 other states. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case early this year that could open the door for legal sports betting in any state that wants it.

Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, has said he will file an identical bill in the House.

The bill does not exempt wagering on college sports. The Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association opposes all forms of wagering on sports.

The NCAA’s website says sports betting “has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.”

The NCAA declined comment on Ford’s bill.

Legal Sports Report, which follows the issue nationally, said Indiana will be a “key sports betting battlefront.”

The post noted that Indiana was the second state nationally to regulate paid fantasy sports in 2016, but the NCAA influenced the law by keeping college sports out of the games.

Legal Sports Report called that “a relatively easy victory” for the NCAA because there were few major companies in the industry. Influencing legislators in perhaps dozens of states, it predicted, will be much more difficult. The American Gaming Association (AGA) has already said it will fight any attempts to “carve out” college sports from legal sports betting.

The current battle, in the Supreme Court, is Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. It involves the state of New Jersey trying to have the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) declared unconstitutional. PAPSA, which passed in 1992, prohibited sports betting except in a few states.

A panel on gaming at an Indiana legislative preview conference in December agreed that sports betting is quickly moving to the mainstream. The AGA estimates that $150 billion a year is wagered on sports illegally in the U.S.

Ford’s bill would impose an initial fee of at least $500,000 for operators that want to offer sports betting. They would also pay an annual administrative fee of $75,000.

Adjusted gross receipts on sports wagering would be taxed at 9.25 percent.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Public Policy.

Matt Bell, president and CEO of the Casino Association of Indiana, said at the legislative conference that educating lawmakers on the issue will be imperative.

He said sports betting by itself won’t bring a huge amount of money into state coffers. The benefit of sports betting, he said, will be in attracting people to casinos who wouldn’t otherwise go there.

“We have to be reasonable in the way we address sports betting and its taxation as well, both in terms of entry into the market and how we tax it as a state,” Bell said. “Its benefit is that it will be driving customers to a property who wouldn’t be there, who will spend incrementally in other ways. That’s where the state will realize a benefit.”

Howard County Drug Epidemic: A New Pursuit

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Kokomo Tribune on 12/13/2017 by Cody Neuenschwander

Tyler Sparger is a 22-year-old former addict who will begin studying law at Indiana University Kokomo in January.

KOKOMO – Tyler Sparger knows exactly where he would be today if he never beat his addiction – in fact he didn’t even need to wait for the entire question to be asked.

“Dead,” was his fast, blunt response.

Sparger has been clean since around April 2016, and has a dream of becoming an attorney. But before then, he developed a drug addiction and overdosed twice in 2016, each time on a deadly cocktail of drugs, brought back into the land of the living with Narcan.

But that’s not where his story starts, and it certainly isn’t where it ends.

Feeling more comfortable standing than sitting for about half of a two-hour interview, the 22-year-old Sparger described his relatively mundane first step into addiction, the sordid depths it brought him and the people and faith that pulled him back out.

When he was 10 years old, Sparger was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, causing him to have uncontrollable twitches and ticks. His mother, Melissa Ballard, who sat with Tyler during his interview, said some of the involuntary movements were so severe she could clearly hear when his chin collided with his chest.

It was a hard thing to cope with when he was young. It caused physical pain in his neck from consistent twitches, leading to tense muscles – an ache that developed over years. Additionally, other kids in school teased him about it.

That combination of physical and emotional pain formed the groundwork that sprouted his addiction, Sparger believes – but it wouldn’t materialize until he turned 16.

That’s when Sparger had his wisdom teeth removed. He got pain medication from the dentist, and said he took them in appropriate doses. That led to something of a revelation: the meds did more than treat the pain in his mouth; they helped manage his ticks. Continue reading →

This is opioid addiction: A Herald-Times special report

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Herald Times on 12/17/2017 by Laura Lane

Forty-eight people died in Monroe County from accidental heroin and opioid overdoses in the past two and a half years.

Thirty-five happened over two years.
Sixteen in 2015.
Nineteen in 2016.
During the first six months of 2017, opioid overdoses claimed the lives of another 13 people in Monroe County. And more have died since. The drugs’ death toll this year is on pace to eclipse each of the previous two years.



Heroin and other opioid-based drugs have been linked to suicides during that time as well. And in August of 2016, 26-year-old Brittany Seabrook Sater’s life came to a violent end over heroin after she was shot with an assault rifle during a drug robbery at her duplex.

This addiction has crippled the country, and it exists in every city and town. Lives are lost; families are left grieving, wondering, forever changed.

Bloomington and Monroe County this past week joined dozens of cities and states across the country in the filing of legal claims against drug manufacturers who peddle opioids. They should be held accountable, the lawsuits say, for the widespread distribution of the drugs feeding addicts’ destructive and deadly habits. Some turn to heroin or synthetic opioids purchased over the internet when the pills run out.

Herald-Times reporters Abby Tonsing and Laura Lane spent time getting to know and interviewing family members and loved ones of 11 of the 35 people lost to the opioid epidemic in 2015 and 2016. The other families were contacted, and either did not respond or said they did not want to be interviewed.

A newspaper editor whose 35-year-old daughter died in Bloomington in the summer of 2015 of an overdose of fentanyl and olanzapine considered telling her story, but declined in the end. “The journalist in me wants to write her story myself, and my pastor says it could be cathartic. The mom in me wants to let her tortured soul rest in peace,” she said. “What I really want is a few more tries to say, “Dammit, you gotta stop this mess!”

The stories in today’s Herald-Times special report on opioid addiction and the devastation that results call those who have died by their first names because it’s how family members referred to them during in-depth interviews about their lives, and their deaths. Durrel, Patty, John, Kevin, Dominique, Kelly, Jessica, Parker, Ashley, Phil, Alex.

Sources are identified by their last names, according to newspaper style rules.

Jennifer Tafoya talked about her stepdaughter Dominique, hoping others hear her story, praying it will turn someone away from heroin.

“It seems like everyone is touched by this in some way or another,” the Greene County woman said. “The only thing I have found to be similar among all the sad stories I know and have heard about heroin is that the person was looking for a way to make the pain inside go away.

“They just wanted to stop hurting.”

Article continues here.

Odd Indiana crimes of 2017: Brains and vodka, fast cars, and Uber or ER?

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The Indy Star on 12/27/17 by Ryan Martin

A drunken-driving arrest involving human organ samples. A shooting victim who called Uber. An underwear thief. Crimes are rarely a laughing matter. Occasionally, though, they’re unusual.
Here are five that were particularly memorable from the past year.

In September police made a drunken-driving arrest in Morgan County after a witness said a Nissan Titan was moving erratically.

Elmo Griggs

Inside the pickup truck police found several totes with some unusual labels: brain and liver samples.

The reason why? The truck’s driver, 75-year-old Elmo A. Griggs, worked as a pathology vendor for the Marion County coroner’s office, IndyStar reporter Justin Mack reported.

Griggs wasn’t providing services to the county at the time of his arrest.

Police also found a half-empty vodka bottle in the truck.

Police later learned that the samples were connected to Griggs’ private cases involving the Tippecanoe County coroner’s offices.

Griggs was sentenced in October to a year of probation after pleading guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated.


Last year police learned of a six-month shoplifting spree across Indianapolis. Police said the perpetrator stole purses, coats and athletic wear.

Terry Benyon

And lots and lots of women’s underwear.

All told, police say he stole at least $20,000 in merchandise.

They eventually arrested Terry Benyon. He was sentenced in February to seven years in prison after being found guilty of corrupt business influence and multiple counts of theft, IndyStar reporter Holly Hays reported.

Benyon told police that he sold the underwear and other clothes from the back of his truck.

He would park outside gas stations, salons and liquor stores, he told police.

The underwear — some from Victoria’s Secret, according to the report — sold for $3 each.


Want to give a 707-horsepower car a spin? Maybe don’t try it on the Indiana Toll Road in Lake County.

That’s where Indiana State Police in April found an Illinois man reaching 158 mph in his 2016 Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

The posted speed limit in that area is 70 mph.

Fully throttled, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

The driver told a state trooper that he knew he was driving fast — but that he wanted to show his friends what the powerful engine was capable of, Hays reported.

The Hellcat can reach a top speed of 199 mph, according to an IndyStar auto review, moving from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds.

The driver was arrested on a preliminary charge of reckless driving.


A man was shot in the groin early one May morning.

But instead of calling an ambulance, he apparently called for an Uber, IndyStar reporter Emma Kate Fittes reported.

The 27-year-old eventually was transferred out of the Uber vehicle into an ambulance.

He was taken to Eskenazi Hospital with no life-threatening injuries, police said.

Two suspects fled. No arrests have been made.


Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Scott Dixon and former 500 champion Dario Franchitti were making a food run on a Sunday night in May when they were robbed at gunpoint.

Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar driver Scott Dixon (9)Buy PhotoChip Ganassi Racing IndyCar driver Scott Dixon (9) watches Ed Carpenters last lap securing him the pole position for the Indianapolis 500 during Armed Forces Pole Day Sunday, May 21, 2017, afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

While waiting in the drive-thru line at Taco Bell, 3502 W. 16th St., two teenagers approached the car, IndyStar reported.

They demanded Dixon’s wallet and phone.

“There goes that Taco Bell sponsorship we were working on I guess,” race team owner Chip Ganassi tweeted.

Two boys, 15 and 14, were arrested.

Statewide symposium to address opioid crisis in rural Indiana

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Purdue University Agricultural Communications on 11/30/2017 by Darrin Pack

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A consortium of eight Indiana agricultural and public health organizations will host a statewide symposium focusing on the significant impact of the opioid crisis in rural and farming communities.

The symposium is scheduled for Jan. 5, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Boone County Fairgrounds, 1300 Hwy. 100 S, Lebanon. Sponsors are Purdue Extension, AgrIInstitute, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Rural Health Association, Indiana State Poultry Association, Indiana Porkand the Indiana Farm Bureau.

During the symposium, a statewide panel of public policy leaders and experts from the health, economic development and law enforcement sectors will discuss the social and financial consequences of opioid abuse, as well as prevention and treatment initiatives.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch will introduce the program and provide opening remarks. The keynote speaker is Sam Quinones, nationally recognized author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.” The luncheon speaker will be Jim McClelland, executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement for the state of Indiana.

Anne Hazlett, assistant to the secretary for rural development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and former director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, will deliver the closing address.

The symposium is open to the public. Registration, including lunch, is $30. To register, go to

Study: Poverty, jail time linked

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Sentinel & Enterprise on 12/26/2017 by Sam Cote

Boston University Statehouse Program

BOSTON — Consider this: You are fined as punishment for some offense. You can’t pay this fine and wind up in jail. Upon release you still don’t have the money to pay the fine or the means to avoid the behavior you were fined for in the first place. You are penalized again, but this time you face twice the fine and double the jail time.

Cycles like these are an unfortunate reality for many in Massachusetts, according to Lois Ahrens, the founder of The Real Cost of Prisons Project.

“You can’t jail people for being poor, but that is what’s happened,” she said.

The U.S. locks up more people per capita than any other nation, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Despite Massachusetts’ progressive reputation, the Commonwealth is no exception.

The Bay State locks up a disproportionate number of residents from smaller, more disadvantaged cities and town, according to research by Jessica Simes, an assistant professor of sociology at Boston University.

These results are consistent with existing research that shows locations with greater populations of minorities and economically disadvantaged households have higher prison admission rates.

‘Stop the Bleed’ campaign

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Journal Review on 12-13-17

“Stop the Bleed” is a national awareness campaign and a call to action. Stop the Bleed is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

NCJFCJ Resolves to Help Modernize Approach to Juvenile Probation With Better Understanding of Adolescent Brain Development

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National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges on 8/21/2017

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) passed a resolution supporting the commitment to juvenile probation systems that conform to the latest knowledge of adolescent brain development.

Current research on adolescent brain development is key in juvenile and family court judges’ understanding, anticipating and responding to the behavior of adolescents by holding them accountable in developmentally appropriate ways. The NCJFCJ encourages judicial leadership to guide policy and practice changes that incorporate these research findings.

“The NCJFCJ’s resolution sets an expectation that patience, persistence, flexibility and individualized care are the priorities for juvenile probation professionals,” said Steve Bishop, senior associate, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Currently nearly one-quarter of all out-of-home placements are the result of violations of probation. We encourage juvenile probation departments to heed NCJFCJ’s call to cease imposing conditions of probation and never use secure detention or incarceration as a sanction for youth who fail to meet probation expectations.”

Research indicates the brain undergoes rapid changes during adolescence, and continues to develop into a person’s early 20s, directly affecting the way youth think and reason, indicating adolescents are developmentally different from adults. Juvenile justice system policies, programs and supervision should be tailored to reflect the distinct development needs of adolescents.

In the 2005 Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines, juvenile delinquency court judges should ensure that court dispositions are individualized and include differential responses of sanctions and incentives.

“Probation supervision continues to be the most common disposition ordered for youth adjudicated in juvenile courts for their law violating behavior,” said Melissa Sickmund, Ph.D., director of the NCJFCJ’s National Center for Juvenile Justice. “This resolution encourages judicial leadership to push juvenile probation agencies to modernize juvenile probation—to implement evidence-based practices.”

Modernizing juvenile probation approaches to incorporate knowledge on adolescent development and behavior decision-making will: help youths understand, appreciate, and remember their probation requirements; emphasize short-term, positive outcomes for probation compliant behaviors; deliver sanctions for noncompliant behaviors in ways that enable youths to learn from their mistakes and modify their behaviors in the future; and promote affiliation with positive peers.

The resolution recommends a developmental approach to juvenile probation that leads to a normal path to adulthood, which includes family engagement and community partnerships, and using out-of-home placement as a last resort.

“The American Probation and Parole Association believes that taking an individualized and developmental approach will achieve better overall success rates for our young people,” said Veronica Cunningham, executive director, American Probation and Parole Association.

“As the resolution indicates, the juvenile justice system acknowledges the inherent differences between youth and adults. As such, juvenile probation practices should be designed to reflect those differences, and departments should modernize their approach to juvenile delinquency by incorporating knowledge about adolescent development in their work. Juvenile probation departments can play a significant role in helping young people develop the competencies and skills to become successful adults.”

Too many juvenile courts and juvenile probation departments impose conditions of probation that are not individualized, have too many requirements and lead to unnecessary detention or incarceration for technical violations. Also, probation conditions are too often subjective and exacerbate racial and ethnic disparities.

“The juvenile justice system was created to maintain a rehabilitative focus while holding youth accountable for their actions,” said Susan Vivian Mangold, Esq., executive director of Juvenile Law Center. “Juvenile Law Center has been advocating for more than two decades to ensure that the latest adolescent neurological science and behavioral science inform policies and practices that impact adolescents.”

The NCJFCJ supports and is committed to the development of robust education and training of juvenile probation staff on adolescent brain development; its impact on juvenile justice policy, practice and the law; and its relationship to juvenile probation case planning, conditions of probation, supervision, monitoring and enforcement and data collection. The NCJFCJ also encourages the use of incentives, rather than sanctions, to modify youth behavior, and for the adoption of a developmentally designed juvenile probation system with a different response system.

“With this resolution, the NCJFCJ encourages judicial leadership to guide policy and practice changes that incorporate the research findings on adolescent brain development,” said Judge Anthony (Tony) Capizzi, NCJFCJ president. “It outlines what judges can do to transform juvenile probation supervision to an approach that works to incentivize kids doing things right rather than a punitive approach. In jurisdictions large and small, from coast to coast, judges can make a difference.”

Task force researches improving Indiana’s public defender system

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The Indiana Lawyer on 12/13/2017 by Olivia Covington

On the heels of criticism from a national organization and multiple lawsuits challenging Indiana’s public defender system, Indiana lawmakers and legal stakeholders are beginning to review the state’s public defense mechanisms to identify strategies for improvement.

Led by retired 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John Tinder, the 17-member Task Force on Public Defense was formed to address the concerns about Indiana’s provision of indigent defense services outlined in a report released by the Sixth Amendment Center last year. The extensive 228-page report took issue with the Public Defender Commission’s lack of oversight over counties not participating in its reimbursement program, and its inability to enforce cooperation with commission-created caseload standards among counties that do participate. The reimbursement program offers to pay participating counties 40 percent of the cost of providing indigent defense services, but due to funding troubles, the commission has not always been able to reimburse the full amount promised.

As a result, even participating counties have failed to maintain what the commission has determined to be reasonable caseload requirements. The result has been overworked public defenders and concerns about ineffective client representation. The task force was created to examine those and other concerns about the state’s indigent defense shortcomings and begin developing a plan to fix the broken system.

“We’re taking a look at the particulars of that report and other criticisms, and also positive information about public defense in Indiana,” said Tinder, who agreed to lead the task force after the death of its original chair, Senior District Judge Larry McKinney.

“We’re going to hear from a variety of people including courts and public defenders and those who utilize public defenders to hear what their thoughts are,” Tinder said.

Getting the facts

The task force so far has met four times and is still in the information-gathering phase of its work. One of the central issues the members are researching is how to exert quality control over the 33 counties that choose not to participate in the reimbursement program, said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council.

Without the promise of state money, there is no leverage to force those counties to comply with caseload maximums, Landis said. That problem is exacerbated statewide with regard to misdemeanor indigent defense, which is not reimbursed at all. Thus, one of the task force’s first orders of business is to find a better model to ensure there is a level of quality control present in indigent defense services across all counties, Landis said.

“There’s no constituency that demands high quality services, and the consumer, the person being represented, can’t fire their lawyer if they’re providing poor quality representation,” he said. “We’ve got a perfect storm in terms of constitutionally mandated services, but … nobody else is making sure there’s an adequate quality of representation provided, and that’s what the task force is looking at.”

At the appellate level, the Sixth Amendment Center report recommended the creation of a statewide appellate defender office “as a check against inadequate trial-level representation.” Such offices are present in other states, but not Indiana, said Joel Schumm, a professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, who sits on the task force and chairs the appellate post-conviction subcommittee.

As part of its work, Schumm’s subcommittee has been evaluating national standards and best practices in other states to find which public defense systems enable clients to receive the most effective representation, he said. The main goal is to develop an appellate system that provides a level of consistency across the state, considering each Indiana county currently has autonomy to structure its services as it pleases.

For example, Marion County has its own public office, while other counties employ a contract system in which public defenders who contract with a court are called in to provide services when needed. That system was the impetus for a lawsuit filed in October 2015 against the Johnson County Commissioners, county judges and a group of contracted public defenders.

Jon Little, an Indianapolis attorney representing the plaintiffs, who are current and former Johnson County defendants, said the contract system has resulted in county public defenders handling caseloads well over acceptable maximums. That’s led to forced plea deals and minimal contact between the defendants and their court-appointed attorneys, Little said.

After the Shelby Superior Court dismissed that case in January, it went before the Indiana Court of Appeals for oral arguments on Dec. 7. Jessica Wegg, counsel for the plaintiffs, told the panel of judges Edward Najam, Elaine Brown and James Kirsch the indigent defense system is unconstitutional as applied in Johnson County because the excessive caseloads cause the defenders to provide counsel that is below the constitutional requirements. Wegg found support for the ability to challenge the public defense system before a final outcome in her clients’ cases in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963) and United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984).

But Kyle Hunter and William Barrett, counsel for the judges and county commissioners, grounded their argument in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), which established a test for determining whether an attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The Strickland test could provide relief for the appellants, but only once their cases have concluded, the attorneys said.

The Sixth Amendment Center also criticized the contract system, calling on the state to prohibit contracts that create conflicts of interests among public defenders whose income is contractually based on the number of cases they hear. Considering the issues raised about contract-based public defense, Schumm said his subcommittee is evaluating all options to provide a consistent method of competent, independent representation for indigent defendants.

Collaborative effort

One of the greatest strengths of the Task Force on Public Defense is its inclusion of stakeholders from varied backgrounds, Tinder said. The 17 members were selected from courts, law schools, the Statehouse and other legal organizations to provide a range of perspectives that touch on all aspects of the criminal justice system, he said.

Justice Christopher Goff, who sits on the task force, said the collaborative approach to sharing perspectives and developing ideas among the members is reminiscent of similar work he did while on the Wabash Superior Court bench.

Wabash is one of the 59 Indiana counties participating in the commission’s reimbursement program, so he joined the task force with a prior familiarity of the struggles public defender offices can face in trying to comply with commission-imposed caseload maximums. Additionally, Goff said his county consistently tried to implement best practices to make the courts run efficiently and effectively, such as introducing multiple problem-solving courts.

“What I found in my past job and in this one is when you work in a collaborative process, it benefits all parties concerned when you work toward improving an area of common concern,” Goff said.

Members of the public also will be invited to work with the task force on public defense reform. At least three public hearings will be held that will give stakeholders an opportunity to express their concerns about the current indigent defense system, or to offer their ideas for improvement, Landis said.

Additionally, Tinder noted the group is accepting written comments via email or mail. Information about hearings and comments will be posted on the task force’s website,, as it becomes available.

Looking to the future

Each of the task force members agreed it’s too soon to predict what the results of their work will be, though they did offer ideas about what those results could look like.

Landis, for example, reiterated his goal is to create a system that empowers a state body to evaluate and ensure compliance with commission standards. Schumm predicted public defense systems in other states will likely influence the recommendations the task force puts forth for a revised system in Indiana.

Landis also emphasized the goal is not to completely overhaul Indiana’s existing public defense framework, but rather to take the components that are working and build on them to create a more effective system. The task force is expected to begin turning its research into recommendations by next summer, when it can then begin planning to introduce potential legislation during the 2019 legislation session.