Legislators are debating the merits of a bill designed to streamline the prosecution of youth gun crimes. House Bill 1256 restores the ability to send 16 and 17-year-old offenders to adult court if they’re arrested for a second gun offense. The bill’s author, Representative Wendy McNamara, argues that juvenile gun charges often have no equivalent in adult court.
“I’m putting back into law what has currently been in practice for as long as I can know; therefore, I’m not placing myself in the position of the judge,” McNamara told the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee. “We’re just giving them an opportunity to establish jurisdiction where we thought they had, and we’re renewing that.”
Youth advocates say the bill would send more teens directly into the adult court system, denying offenders access to necessary services.
When teens are sent to adult court, “they’re gonna get a bond,” Jill Johnson told the committee. “They’re gonna be back on the streets, and they’re gonna be back on the streets before they have any kind of individualized treatment — the kind of individualized treatment they probably never will get,” and if convicted, “they’re gonna get placed on probation or maybe community correction.
Community correction wasn’t designed to fit the needs of youth offenders. Inevitably, experts say, this bill will lead to more teens in prison. When they’re released, they’ll come out as convicted felons who may struggle to find a job or become a productive member of their communities.
A recent study confirmed that 83 percent of young offenders sent directly to adult court are children of color.
“You’re voting for a piece of legislation you know in your heart of hearts is going to lead to and continue to have a disparate impact on Black boys,” Senator Greg Taylor said before voting against the bill. “We are complicit in the (gun) violence because we continue to send 16-year-olds to adult court.”
If you or your teen have been charged with gun offenses in Indiana, don’t hesitate to contact the criminal defense lawyers of Razumich & Associates. Regardless of whether House Bill 1256 becomes law, you’ll want powerful advocacy for your legal rights.