The Six Policy Priorities for Juvenile Defense was published by the National Juvenile Defender Center with support from Models for Change to help drive systemic reform. Indiana is making progress on many of them, but there is still work to be done. The policy priorities include:
1. Ensure early access to counsel — As this blog has mentioned repeatedly, the Indiana Supreme Court is accepting comments until June 5, 2013 for a new rule that would require that all children accused of delinquent acts in juvenile court meet with an attorney prior to the detention hearing or the initial hearing, whichever occurs first. For more information, see the Early Appointment of Counsel page tab near the top of the page, including an FAQ sheet and sample letters.
2. Establish a presumption of indigence for all youth — Indiana has a long history of providing counsel at public defense for indigent court participants, including juveniles. Adams v. State, 411 N.E.2d 160, 162 (1980).
3. Prevent invalid waiver of counsel — There is some anecdotal data that children are waiving counsel without really understanding what an attorney is and what the attorney can do to help the child. The court is required to advise the child about the right to counsel at public expense and inquire into the decision to waive counsel. A.S. v. State, 923 N.E.2d 486, 491 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010). If the child wishes to waive the right to counsel, the court must advise the child of the dangers and pitfalls of self-representation. A.A.Q. v. State, 958 N.E.2d 808, 812 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011). A 2006 survey by the National Juvenile Defender Center of juvenile defense is also informative.
4. Challenge disparate treatment and discrimination — Various groups are working on disproportionate minority contact issues with coordination through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. There are minimal resources and attention focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.
5. Ensure resources and manageable caseloads for juvenile defenders — There are a few forces at work on this issue in Indiana. First, the Indiana Public Defender Commission can reimburse 40% of the cost of indigent defense to participating counties who maintain specific resource and caseload standards. For fiscal year 2011-12, 53 of 92 counties were participating. Another force at work in juvenile defense in Indiana is that, according to Larry Landis, Executive Director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, only approximately 15% of all public defenders are full-time. Therefore, the vast majority of public defenders are juggling pauper counsel caseloads with private practice and other demands. Very few attorneys in Indiana specialize in juvenile defense, and, arguably, there is often little attention paid to assigning resources to this area of practice.
6. Identify and eliminate harmful conditions of confinement — The Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) monitors its own facilities, as well as all of the detention centers in Indiana. The detention center inspections are now available online. DOC has taken steps to lessen the number of children who report sexual abuse while placed as a ward of DOC, and is working to implement PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003) standards, after receiving national attention for the high level of abusive behavior at Pendleton a few years ago.