As the end of the legislative session draws near, there were two bills that passed out of the second house that have the potential to impact our children.
Senate Bill 125 would establish the Commission on Improving the Status of Children with a particular focus on “vulnerable” children, which includes both CHINS and probationers. Members come from a broad spectrum of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and includes representatives from the Department of Child Services, the Department of Correction, the Indiana Public Defender Council, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, and many others. SB 125 is heading back to the Senate with amendments.
If passed, House Bill 1108 will have the potential to dramatically impact certain children who are sentenced in adult criminal court as a result of either waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction or through direct file cases. The bill would empower the Department of Correction to place these children in the Division of Youth Services where there are more age-appropriate resources, including education and counseling. Once the defendant reaches the age of majority, the sentencing court would hold a review hearing prior to the defendant’s nineteenth birthday to determine whether a modification of the original sentence is appropriate given the progress made or whether the original sentence is to be executed in the adult portion of the Department of Correction. HB 1108 returns to the House with amendments. A similar bill existed during the 2012 legislative session, but did not pass out of the second house.
Other states are taking the lead in protecting all children from being sentenced to life without parole. Utah Governor Herbert signed Senate Bill 228, which removes life without parole from the state’s sentencing scheme for juvenile defendants. This legislation was responsive to the recent, recurring message from the U.S. Supreme Court that “kids are different,” including Miller v. Alabama, J.D.B. v. North Carolina, and Graham v. Florida.