Bill Could Send 12-Year-Olds To Department Of Correction

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Indiana Public Media on 01/29/2020 by Brandon Smith

A Senate committee took hours of contentious testimony on a measure that would lower the age at which children are sent to the Department of Correction.

Major portions of the bill were entirely removed, on the fly, moments before a final vote was taken.

Provisions that remain expand the list of crimes that could send a delinquent child to the Department of Correction. The bill lowers the age of those children to as young as 12. And it potentially puts children in DOC longer.

Big Homies of America’s Shane Shepherd is a former youth offender.

“So, if you put a 12-year-old in the adult jail system that’s never experienced sex, never went through puberty, does not have an identity, what do you think his identity is going to be?” Shepherd says.

Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores says the data doesn’t support the bill.

“Waiver to adult court causes juveniles to re-offend more seriously, more quickly and more violently.” Moores says. “It just doesn’t work.”

The system is also disproportionately skewed against people of color. But committee chair Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) insists the issue isn’t about race.

“While my skin is white, my brain’s the same color as your brain and my heart’s the same color as your heart,” Young says.

More than two dozen people testified against the bill. Only one person spoke for it – Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council’s Dave Powell.

“It isn’t always just about the offender. There is often a human being or a family that’s a victim,” Powell says. “And they’re often of color. And someone needs to stand up for them, too.”

The bill heads to the Senate floor.