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Juvenile justice reform bill that prohibits children under 12 from being detained advances

The Indiana House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code unanimously passed House Bill 1359, which would create several juvenile justice reforms.
FILE: Charlotte Tuggle/WBAA
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The Indiana House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code unanimously passed House Bill 1359, which would create several juvenile justice reforms.

A bill targeting multiple areas of juvenile justice reform passed a committee vote Wednesday.

The Indiana House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code unanimously passed House Bill 1359, which would prohibit children under the age of 12 from being detained, create better data collection, implement risk assessment tools and boost support for youth re-entering society, among other efforts.

Circle Up Indy founder James Wilson has been through the state’s juvenile justice system and testified in support of the bill.

“I firmly believe children at the age of 12 years old should not be in detention centers, but should be given opportunities,” Wilson said.

The bill was created after several years of work and research by the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana and its Juvenile Justice Reform Taskforce.

“This has been a long, long process with a lot of different eyes on it, and from the executive, judicial and legislative branches all cooperating,” said Rep. Gregory Steuerwald (R-Indianapolis).

The proposed changes come after an independent analysis found gaps in Indiana’s juvenile system, including a lack of statewide data about youth in the system and inconsistent policies and procedures among counties.

The study, by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Council of State Governments, also found about 80 percent of state funding was going toward residential services, such as secure detention facilities, while only 20 percent was going to community resources that could be used to keep youth out of detention. The analysis was commissioned by the task force.

The bill will move onto a second reading in the House.

Contact WFYI criminal justice reporter Katrina Pross at kpross@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @katrina_pross.

Pross is a Corps Member of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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