In the last decade, the Indiana Department of Correction, Division of Youth Services, has come under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (DOJ), for unconstitutional conditions. Over the course of the investigations, the DOJ found that various facilities failed to protect children and provide adequate mental health and special education services. See summary letter here. This letter is the most recent formal action in this ongoing process.
The facilities that have been found to be deficient included Pendleton (boys only), South Bend (closed), Plainfield (closed), and Madison (girls only). The only juvenile IDOC facility not listed in the investigation report is Camp Summit Boot Camp.
It should be noted that most states have not been subject to similar DOJ investigations. The other states who have been subject to investigation in the last twenty years by the DOJ include California, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee
In spite of this difficult history, Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2012, published by the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics on June 6, 2013, found that no juvenile IDOC facility was among the worst in the country in terms of sexual assaults between juvenile detainees or between detainees and staff. The worst states were Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and South Carolina.
The DOJ investigation encouraged Indiana to look to non-institutional options for the children by expanding the community alternatives, which is an especially daunting challenge in rural communities with limited resources. Marion County (Indianapolis) is leading the way in moving away from IDOC and towards community alternatives. In 2012, only 100 Marion County children were committed to IDOC. In contrast, 180 Marion County children were committed in 2005, and the number has fallen steadily since.
We must continue to work to find better solutions for children across the state.