Kokomo Perspective on 12/3/2019 by Devin Zimmerman
A new initiative in Howard County designed to stem student truancy is firing on all cylinders, with student referrals from local schools exploding over last year’s totals.
Earlier this year the makings of a new initiative began to take shape. Local judges noticed that student truancy referrals from schools were beginning to enter the court system in increasing numbers. Not only that but also the cases that came down the pipes were extreme, with students missing as many as 60 days of school, creating a situation where, by that point, service providers couldn’t help students salvage a school year.
But, now all of the area’s five school districts are on board with a plan to normalize truancy referral processes, ensuring intervention by the Howard County Department of Child Services (DCS) and Howard County Juvenile Probation Department at a point when students’ academic success still can be achieved.
“Ultimately, my goal is to make sure that children are protected. Part of that protection is making sure they’re educated and going to school. I think it’s really an important piece because kids, we all know, the more they’re educated, the better shot they have in the future,” said Stacy Morgan, director for Howard County DCS.
The News Sun on 12/3/2019 by Patrick Redmond
Indiana State Supreme Court Justice Steven David spend Monday visiting LaGrange County to see how the local JDAI program is working. He spend about an hour Monday meeting with local attorneys talking about civility and ethics.
LAGRANGE — Indiana State Supreme Court Justice Steven David returned to LaGrange County Monday, a guest of JDAI program director Randy Merrifield.
David came to speak with local students in programs supported by the JDAI office and meet with local Amish businessmen.
David has been to LaGrange County three times in the last two years to learn more about LaGrange County’s JDAI program.
JDAI, short for Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, is a program designed to help teenagers avoiding incarceration in area juvenile facilities by reaching out to them before trouble happens. Justice David is a member of the state JDAI committee and an advocate of the program.
“It’s a very important program,” David said Monday. “We visited a high school, a middle school and an elementary school where they have a mentoring program. We visited with the high school seniors who are doing the mentoring and talked to some of the kids who are being mentored. We met with some high school administrators and talked about how important it is for the community to be involved. And I think the message I can take back to Indianapolis and our state JDAI steering committee is you have to get out into the community and see all the great work that’s being done, and the culture here in this county is nothing short of phenomenal. This community works together.”
The Herald Republican on 12/3/2019 by Mike Marturello
ANGOLA — The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative is paying dividends in Steuben County, its coordinator reported to the Steuben County Board of Commissioners on Monday.
While speaking before the commissioners, JDAI Coordinator Kathy Armstrong presented statistics showing three categories regarding juvenile detention in Steuben County.
The bottom line: There is a downward trend in the three main metrics she provided commissioners.
Perhaps most significant were reductions in the number of children sent to detention and the obvious cost of detention.
“I attribute this to everybody coming together and changing the perspective in the community on what we do,” Armstrong said.
The program focuses on reallocation of public resources from mass incarceration toward investment in youth, families and communities.
“This reinvestment provides an opportunity for lasting improvement to public safety,” said information provided by the Indiana Department of Corrections’ Division of Youth Services.
The goal of the program is to use more community based programs with the hope of keeping juveniles out of structured detention programs that often lead to juveniles becoming better delinquents.
Armstrong’s data said from juvenile referrals in the Steuben County court systems — through the Steuben Circuit Court — went from 159 in 2016 to 78 in the third quarter of 2019, though there was a spike in 2018.
Indiana Office of Court Services on 12/02/2019
The County Jail Overcrowding Task Force was established in 2019 (IC 11-12-6.8) to conduct a statewide review of jail overcrowding and identify common reasons and possible local, regional and statewide solutions. The task force will also study the issue of reducing recidivism for convicted felons in county jails by offering programs that address mental health treatment, drug and alcohol treatment, education, and other evidence-based approaches.
On November 6, 2019 at Anderson University, POPAI and IACCAC made a joint presentation to the Task Force. Watch the presentation here by fast-forwarding to the 1:30:30 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9tRx3RFMyM&feature=youtu.be
The task force shall submit a report to the governor, chief justice, and legislative council by December 1, 2019.
KPC News on 10/27/2019
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” — author Neil Postman
The Indiana Youth Institute, with the assistance of a $1.25 million grant from the Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention, is developing programs to assist children impacted by the opioid crisis.
The pilot projects, in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Project Leadership, will serve youth in eight Indiana counties: five of the eight are rural and two have non-fatal opioid overdose rates that are significantly higher than the statewide rate.
The aim is to increase the number of youth who are mentored by an adult with specialized training in opioid addiction and related challenges.
Indiana ranks 16th in the nation for the number of drug overdose deaths. In 2017, 1,138 Hoosiers died from opioid drug overdoses, a 215% increase from 2012. Almost every Hoosier county has experienced opioid drug overdose deaths from heroin or prescription opioids in the past five years.
Tami Silverman, president of the IYI, said Indiana lacks “programs for kids when Mom or Dad has to go into treatment or prison. Kids are tired at school, not well fed and can’t learn because of the home environment. We have to address it at some point and the sooner the better.”
The pilot program nearest to us is with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Elkhart.
IYI serves professionals such as teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, foster parents and parents with local training and webinars.
In addition to the opioid pilot programs, Silverman said an important IYI focus is teen suicide prevention, especially through wellness initiatives provided by coaches who talk with young athletes about depression and anxiety.
“We have trained coaches (for) conversations with team members about nutrition, sleep, stress and anxiety,” Silverman said.
“We see more anxiety and depression among young people and unfortunately that corresponds to the suicide rate.”
Some people believe the stress caused by social media increases depression and anxiety.
“There is a lot of pressure on kids to get fantastic grades and be in a lot of activities to super achieve,” she said. “We have kids who feel stressed about achievement and we have kids who express stress because they don’t see a bright future for themselves.”
At Youth Worker Cafes — more than 200 across Indiana — IYI professionals have found top concerns are (1) anxiety and depression in youth and (2) overcoming barriers to mental health treatment.
In northeast Indiana, a Youth Worker Cafe is planned for Nov. 5, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Romer’s Restaurant, 211 S. Detroit St., LaGrange.
The event is free but advance registration is required at iyi.org or call 317-396-2700 or toll-free 800-343-7060.
In December, at IYI’s signature event — the annual Kids Count conference — more than 1,000 people will connect to gain knowledge and rejuvenation. It is the Midwest’s largest gathering of youth-serving professionals.
When we work to ease the challenges faced by our youth entire communities benefit.
OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.
Indiana Public Media on 11/21/2019 by Jill Sheridan
The final report for the National Judicial Opioid Task Force was released this week and includes recommendations and resources for courts responding to addiction.
The task force was formed in 2017. Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush co-chairs the group and says it was created in response to the growing number of court cases related to substance abuse.
“Let’s look at the addiction and treat the addiction, this revolving door that we have isn’t working,” says Rush.
Findings in the report include a lack of access to proven treatment, the impact of the opioid epidemic on families and children, the need for better support for state courts and the creation of a framework to respond to future crises.
Rush says this includes adopting ways to help people.
“We’re responsible for the administration of justice in Indiana, and we believe this is part of it,” says Rush.
The report also includes comprehensive tool kits for justice professionals seeking to improve ways to refer and respond to addiction-related cases.
Rush says state courts need to address some hard questions.
“What is the best practice treatment, how can you divert, how do judges look at assessments?” Rush says.
Miami Herald on 11/14/2019 by Emily L. Mahoney
State Sen. Darryl Rouson, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, filed a bill which would set a framework for judges to re-sentence inmates who are serving outdated sentences no longer in state law.
The problem was highlighted in a Times/Herald investigation published Wednesday. The story showed how Florida’s continued changes to its drug sentencing laws have not been applied to anyone already behind bars serving outdated sentences. Until recently, an obscure clause in Florida’s constitution dating back to the Jim Crow era had prohibited state lawmakers from retroactively applying sentencing changes to old cases.
But since voters repealed that clause in 2018 by passing Amendment 11, the state Legislature has yet to put it into action. Rouson sponsored that ballot amendment.
He had said previously that he was considering filing a bill to help inmates in this legal time warp get new sentences consistent with current law. But hours after the Times/Herald investigation published, his bill appeared on the state’s website.
Rouson’s office said the story prompted them to move quickly to make the bill a reality.
“At the end of the day, it’s about saving lives,” Rouson said. “Keeping families intact and returning citizens back to the community.”
Unlike a related House bill which would only allow inmates to be re-sentenced if they meet certain criteria, such as not having any prior violent felony convictions, Rouson’s bill would essentially require judges to give these inmates sentences consistent with current law.
It also would mandate that the Florida Department of Corrections notify inmates who may be eligible for re-sentencing, so they can file a motion to appear before a judge.
The state Legislature has made multiple changes over the past five years to the state’s sentencing laws for possessing or selling certain amounts of prescription opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone. Yet those changes have left hundreds stranded in prison serving long sentences from laws no longer on the books.
In addition to drug trafficking convictions, Rouson’s bill would also allow inmates convicted of aggravated assault to be re-sentenced. Florida’s law for aggravated assault used to impose strict mandatory minimums, which have since been eased back.
As of Thursday, Rouson’s bill, Senate Bill 902, had not been assigned any committees. But he said he is more optimistic this year than any before that state lawmakers are ready to make criminal justice reforms like this.
“The time is now. The issue is ripe,” Rouson said. “Based on what I’ve heard and seen, there is willingness on part of … senators to really take hold and do something different.”
He added that the Florida House “tends to be a little more conservative” on this issue, but is “hopeful” that House members “will be more open this year than they have in the past.”
Indy Star on 10/16/2019 by Jessica Levy
Can education about bias and institutionalized racism help improve child welfare throughout Indiana? Nonprofit organization Child Advocates, with support from the Central Indiana Community Foundation, is betting that it can.
Child Advocates has been leading educational workshops for hundreds of local businesses and community leaders since 2010, but it only recently launched a highly localized version of the workshops focusing specifically on Indiana.
The program, called “Interrupting Racism for Children,” uses educational methods from its tried and tested programs while adding new statistics, insights and historical background that makes the program especially relevant to the local population.
Taking a hard look at the root causes of racism, the program asks participants to examine how racism may be embedded into modern institutions, even if it’s unintentional. Through the interactive workshops, participants learn to define racism and identify specific instances where institutionalized racism has had and continues to have adverse impacts on communities of color.
The goal is for participants not only to walk away with a better understanding of the history of race and racism in Indiana, but also to arm themselves with practical approaches to acknowledge and interrupt that racism before it does further damage.
That damage is clearly showcased in a consistent pattern of disproportionality within the local child welfare system. According to Child Advocates, black children make up just 11% of the population in Marion County, yet account for 40.9% of the welfare system. Comparatively, white children represent 71% of the population and only 46.7% of children in the system.
Those numbers raise important questions about the role that institutionalized racism plays in addressing the needs of Indiana’s different communities. The opportunity for improvement is clear, and Child Advocates is stepping up its efforts to educate community leaders on possible reasons for the discrepancy and what they can do to correct it.
The first step to dismantling institutionalized racism is educating people about its harmful effects. By increasing awareness of the problem, everyone who plays a role in the child welfare system — whether directly or tangentially — has an opportunity to explore how they can interrupt built-in racism.
Although the disproportionality in the system highlights the very real impacts of racism on the black community in particular, Child Advocates notes that people of all races stand to benefit from a more equal system. Ultimately, a community where all people feel that society’s doors are open to them is a community that will thrive socially and economically.
“If we want Indianapolis to be a socially healthy and economically thriving community, we must address systemic racism and this program is a great place to begin,” said Jill English, the Interrupting Racism for Children program director.
English is a DePauw University graduate who has worked in the field since 1996, with former roles in the Office of Family and Children (now called the Department of Child Services) and The Villages of Indiana, Inc. She uses insights gleaned from her experience with the child welfare and foster care systems to teach institutions and individuals how they can better serve those children.
“Having worked in child welfare nearly my entire career, I’ve seen the disparity for decades,” said English. “It was, and continues to be, refreshing to see an organization that works with youth so committed to making this work a priority,” English said about her current work with Child Advocates.
One workshop at a time, Child Advocates hopes that disparity will disappear.
For more information on Child Advocates’ Interrupting Racism for Children workshops and other programs to assist children in need, visit childadvocates.net.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA Today Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
Dispatch News on 10/3/2019 by Rita Price
About 64 Franklin County Juvenile Court probation department employees will be affected next year when their jobs are eliminated and and they have to seek positions with vastly different, more complex responsibilities as part of a plan to transform the way juveniles are supervised. The new Community Restoration Services Department will operate under the idea that juveniles fare better and the community stays safer when support is emphasized over incarceration.
All jobs in the Franklin County Juvenile Court probation department will be eliminated next year as part of a plan to transform the way youths are supervised, judges said Thursday.
Current employees who want positions in the new Community Restoration Services Department will have to apply for them.
“The job is going to change dramatically,” Juvenile Court Judge Kim Browne said after a meeting with the probation department staff at Blacklick Woods Metro Park. “We’re moving to a model that is more individual-specific. The responsibilities are different.”
About 64 court employees will be affected, including probation officers, supervisors, clerical workers and others.
Browne, the court’s administrative judge, said the court has been moving toward the shift for several years and has spent more than $200,000 on training. “It’s time to take that next step,” she said.
Judges want a department focused less on cookie-cutter probation plans and rigid compliance, and more on customized supervision and support. Current approaches make compliance a matter of “either you did or you didn’t,” Browne said, with too many juveniles sent back to court or detention for violations that could be addressed in other ways.
Probation employees who went to the information meeting said they just learned of the jobs plan on Monday. Though several spoke with The Dispatch on their way in our out of the park lodge, none wanted their names printed because they are fearful they won’t be rehired.
“We’re just pretty blindsided,” one said. “I’m not gonna lie; I’m worried about what might happen.”
Another employee cried as she walked to her car.
“I think it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “You put your heart into something for so many years — there’s a person who is just months away from retiring — and he doesn’t know if he’ll make it. Nobody saw this coming.”
In an email sent to employees, Browne said the court intends to post all positions in the new Community Restoration Services Department early next year, and fill them by mid-March. All current probation department positions are to be eliminated effective March 27.
Juvenile Judge Elizabeth Gill said officials know employees feel uneasy.
“Understandably, folks came in pretty anxious,” Gill said after the meeting. But, she said, many wound up volunteering to be a part of the transition committee.
Neither she nor Browne would say whether some of the current employees won’t be considered good candidates for the new jobs. Browne said the positions are so different that employees “deserve a chance” to decide whether they want them. She also said assistance is available if some employees need additional training or instruction.
The new department will embrace the latest science and studies, which Browne and Gill say clearly conclude that juveniles fare better and the community stays safer when support is emphasized over incarceration. The judges also acknowledge that likely will make probation jobs more complex.
“Traditional probation rules criminalize typical teenage behavior,” Gill said, adding that too many youths receive violations for missteps such as skipping class.
Others might return to court or detention for alcohol or drug use, which is common in the recovery process. Juveniles with GPS monitors also can get into trouble if the person driving them home from school stops at a store or drive-thru, Browne said.
“Wholesale locking up kids in cages is unproductive. And it flat out doesn’t work,” she said. “All they do is learn to be better criminals.”
Indy Star on 11/5/2019 by Arika Herron
Carmel Clay Schools passed Indiana’s first school safety referendum, asking voters to approve a new type of property tax increase to pay for improved security measures.
Carmel, the first district to test the new tool created by lawmakers earlier this year, was one of 10 school districts around the state asking voters for more money. Six of those districts were successful, passing seven different ballot measures.
The district, which passed the measure with 68.5% support, will use the $40 million generated over the next eight years to pay for more police officers and bolster mental health supports for students.
“We couldn’t be happier,” said Superintendent Michael Beresford.
In Marion County, Lawrence Township Schools was seeking a boost of $191 million to fund major renovations at both of its high schools, in addition to work at several elementary schools and early learning centers.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support,” said Lawrence Superintendent Shawn Smith. Continue reading →
The Indiana Lawyer on 11/19/2019 by IL Staff
The Indiana Supreme has created the Indiana Rules on Access to Court Records to replace several portions of Administrative Rule 9.
In orders handed down Friday, members of the Indiana Supreme Court amended Administrative Rule 9 and its references by striking them from the Indiana Rules of Court. In its place, the high court has created the Indiana Rules on Access to Court Records to specifically replace Administrative Rule 9 (A), (B), (D), (G), and (J).
NWI.com on 11/21/2019 by Sarah Reese
CROWN POINT — More than two dozen people packed a small conference room Monday at the Lake County Juvenile Center to begin the process of fine-tuning a tool officials use to decide when children accused of delinquency should be detained.
Lake Juvenile Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak echoed Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David when he said the goal would be “to detain the right kids, for the right reasons, for the right amount of time.”
Stefaniak said he had heard complaints and frustrations from some police departments about when children are released from custody.
He encouraged those gathered to return in January to begin taking a closer look at proposed changes to a point-based risk-assessment tool the court uses to determine if a child should be detained.
“We can learn from each other,” Stefaniak said.
Studies show children often act on impulse because their brains are not yet fully developed. Holding them in a juvenile detention facility “has a profoundly negative impact” on their “mental and physical well-being, their education and their employment,” according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute.
Research suggests teens held in detention are more likely to continue to engage in delinquent behavior and that being incarcerated can increase the likelihood that they will commit another crime, the report says.
To combat this problem, Lake County joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in 2009. The number of children held in the Lake County Juvenile Detention Center has fallen by 70% since 2010.
Stefaniak said one goal is to increase communication with police, including about what information can be provided to show a child could be a danger to themself or the community or at risk of not returning to court.
Much like the adult court system, decisions on whether a child should be released from custody while a delinquency petition is pending are based on community safety and flight risk.
After the meeting, Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said he had spoken with Stefaniak about his concerns and liked the proposed changes to the detention tool.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott shined a spotlight on the issue last month when he criticized the court’s decision in October to release a 17-year-old girl charged with making an online threat to shoot up Hammond High School on Sept. 11.
Doughty said he was encouraged by Monday’s meeting and planned to return in January. Hammond police have been working on their own for more than 10 years to reduce the number of children they send to the county Juvenile Center, he said.
Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance said the number of children detained from his community also has decreased significantly in recent years.
He surveyed his officers for input before Monday’s meeting, he said.
“We have so few interactions, it’s hard to find anybody who had anything negative to say,” he said.
Courier & Press on 11/13/2019 by Earl Hopkins
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and other city officials announced Wednesday afternoon that Evansville was awarded a $1 million federal grant to help youth affected by opioid and substance abuse connect to local services.
Winnecke, as well as other speakers, informed the crowd at Youth First Inc. about the grant, which was awarded to the City of Evansville, the Mayor’s Substance Abuse Task Force (MSATF) and Youth First Inc., by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The grant, Winnecke said, is a response to the number of youth dying throughout the nation because of substance abuse.
“We want every child to thrive in Evansville, no matter the challenges they may face in their homes or neighborhoods,” Winnecke said. “With the help of this grant, we will connect affected young people to the services and support they need to be drug-free.”
Evansville’s proposal for the grant was one of seven in the nation to be selected.
While Winnecke is unaware what specifically set Evansville apart among the highly competitive group of applicants, he suspects it’s because of the collaborative efforts organizations like MSATF and Youth First Inc. have already made throughout the city.
Once the federal grant review process is completed, these groups plan to form the Restoring Every Affected Child’s Hope (REACH) initiative, which will develop data-informed responses to opioid and other substance problems that affect the well-being of Evansville youth.
“Currently, youth who are traumatized or at-risk for substance use disorders are not tracked effectively by any agency or system,” Youth First President Parri Black said. “This realization helped shape our proposal and the name of our project. Through REACH, we will identify that youth and help them build hopeful, resilient futures.”
MSATF Chair Dr. William Wooten said the implementation of REACH will supplement other efforts from the city to resolve substance-related issues in the community.
“While law enforcement and treatment options are important, the long term solution to the substance abuse problem in the Evansville area is effective prevention,” Wooten said. “This grant will enhance our capacity to share information with one another and respond effectively with coordinated prevention efforts to improve services for at-risk youth and families.”
Through REACH, data from a number of social service organizations, treatment centers and area hospitals will provide coping strategies and life skills to reduce the trauma sustained from substance abuse, Wooten said.
REACH will directly serve nine Evansville Vanderburgh County School Corp. schools through MSATF’s collaboration with Youth First, which also boasts several social work services and prevention programs.
These schools include Bosse and Harrison High School, Washington and McGary middle schools, Lodge Community School, Glenwood Leadership Academy, The Academy for Innovative Studies and Dexter and Harper elementary schools, which were selected based on reports of overdose, substance abuse and drug-related arrests in their designated zip code areas.
More schools and services could be added after continuing to collect and review data, Black said.
Black believes once the REACH initiative takes effect, affected youth will be successfully aided and the Evansville community will grow stronger.
“Long after this three-year project ends, our community will continue to benefit from the collaborative efforts generated by the REACH initiative,” Black said. “But more importantly, many at-risk young people will become thriving in our community because they got the support they needed at a difficult time in their lives.”
The Indiana Lawyer on 10/16/2019 by Olivia Covington
Reactions have been mixed to the recent announcement that the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office will no longer prosecute cases of simple possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana.
Then-acting Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced the policy change Sept. 30 after what he said was about two years of discussion within the office and with other jurisdictions that have taken a similar stance. Local law enforcement, however, have said they were surprised by the news.
According to Mears, his priority is prosecuting violent crime across Indianapolis. He said the MCPO researched those crimes and found no link to marijuana.
“We tried to figure out, number one, what were some indicators of why people were involved in violence, and we looked at what was the motivating factor behind some of these crimes, and that’s how we felt comfortable making the conclusion that there is not that strong nexus with public safety,” Mears said in announcing the policy change.
Indianapolis is following cities such as Louisville and Cincinnati, where local law enforcement likewise have moved away from prosecuting simple marijuana possession. Continue reading →
WSBT on 10/8/2019 by Katlin Connin
SOUTH BEND — Children at the Juvenile Justice Center in South Bend could see some big changes in their stays.
The JJC is close to settling a lawsuit. That lawsuit centers around an 11-year-old boy.
His parents say the JJC frequently kept their son in solitary confinement and offered him no special education or support. That’s despite the fact the boy was diagnosed with a speech impediment and emotional and learning disabilities. If the County Council signs off, the settlement would award the family $100,000.
But there would be benefits to other kids who may come through these doors.
Bill Bruinsma was the executive director at the Juvenile Justice Center for years before he decided to pursue other opportunities in 2011. He came back in January.
“There was a need here and I wanted to be here. My heart has been here from the beginning,” said Bruinsma, JJC executive director.
That’s why he supports the policy changes proposed in the settlement. Some he’s already put into place — like the 15 minute evaluation rule on room restrictions.
“Gone are the days where you can just put a child in a cell and say, ‘OK after a couple of hours when you calm down you can come out,” said Bruinsma.
Bruinsma says his staff will need more training to properly carry out that 15 minute rule.
“You have to have more training in terms of safe crisis management. You have to do more training in terms of de-escalation techniques,” said Bruinsma.
The settlement requires one staff member for every four kids. It would also require a clinical psychologist to screen kids for mental health concerns.
“Gives us a little better of an idea of who’s coming in, what do they need,” said Bruinsma.
Bruinsma says finding an individualized plan for each kid who comes through the JJC is vital for the whole community.
“They are all our children. They are going to be back out in the community and if we don’t start the rehabilitative efforts quickly, we can lose these children,” said Bruinsma.
Bruinsma says the County Council will vote on whether to approve the settlement at its meeting Tuesday. He says he fully supports the settlement and has already signed it himself.