INDIANAPOLIS ─ Yesterday, the Indiana Senate concurred unanimously on the amended Senate Bill (SB) 368. The bill will now go to the governor’s desk for final signature. This proposal makes some important changes to Indiana’s juvenile justice system. Under the bill, certain juvenile offenses will be automatically expunged and, under most circumstances, a juvenile would be prohibited from being housed with adult inmates. SB 368 also sets up a procedure for determining juvenile competency.
State Senator Karen Tallian (D─Ogden Dunes) authored the bill and State Senator Jean Breaux (D─Indianapolis) co-authored the bill.
Sen. Tallian had the following comments on the final passage of SB 368:
“This bill makes three major changes to our juvenile justice system. This bill will make us eligible for significant federal dollars that we would lose if we’re not compliant with the 2018 federal law,” Sen. Tallian said, referring to the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. The federal law says that states cannot hold children in adult jails after December 2021.
Sen. Tallian continued, “SB 368 is landmark legislation. It is good policy to protect young people from the permanent harm that can come from being housed in an adult facility. That’s a huge improvement for young people who get involved in the justice system, and will certainly reduce recidivism.
“We also establish competency standards for the youngest children who are accused of crimes, making sure that they are competent to stand trial and understand what is exactly going on. We have been without this since an Indiana Supreme Court ruling 15 years ago.
“The last piece, which we can’t forget, deals with expungement of juvenile records. For most misdemeanors, the juvenile record will be automatically expunged when the child ages out of the system. Kids have a right to move on with their lives. And that is a huge deal for the young people who came to support this bill.
“In the House and Senate committees, the testimony was extraordinary. Thank you to all of the young people and advocates who came to share their stories and talk about the benefits this bill will have. Thanks to all the different groups who worked very hard on this legislation.”
Sen. Breaux shared the following statement upon the final passage of SB 368:
“SB 368 is going to have a huge impact on young people who become involved with the criminal justice system,” shared Sen. Breaux. “Young people make mistakes, but everyone has the right to move on with their life, and I hope those young people who get a second chance because of this legislation take advantage of that opportunity. They have bright futures, and this bill will help them get there.
“Particularly for young people who are found guilty of actions that would be misdemeanors if they were committed by adults, they’re getting that extra chance and finally being allowed to move on from a mistake from their childhood. A young person’s brain oftentimes isn’t fully developed until they’re 25, so to have a mistake from when they are 14, 15 or even younger stay on their record forever─well that’s extremely difficult to overcome.
“This bill also says that young people can’t be housed with adult inmates in most circumstances. We shouldn’t be housing our young people with adults when we know of the associated trauma of cohabitation with adults. The old system also prevents young people from getting the services that they need while they are awaiting trial. There’s a lot of trauma for young people that comes with cohabitating with adult inmates, and to see that a sizable number of young people will now avoid that reality, that’s a successful day for me at the General Assembly.”