Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Star Has Solutions For Marion Co. Juvenile Justice, But None Are Payneful

The Star wrapped up its editorial series today on the serious problems with Marion Co.'s juvenile justice system, and it has several proposed solutions to clean up the mess. Oddly missing from today's wrap-up is Judge James Payne, the man at whose door the report clearly laid blame, although ever so subtlely achieved. Taking Down Words makes a similar observation. The Star does take a shot at state inspectors who found the Marion Co. Juvenile detention center to be "fully compliant" and praised it for having "maintained a high level of compliance."

Judge Payne currently serves as Director of the Department of Children Services for the Daniels' administration. He, in effect, ran the juvenile center during the 20 years he presided as juvenile court judge. Nowhere in the Star report does it call into question his fitness to lead Indiana's statewide effort to reform child services, a top priority of the Daniels' administration, despite the scathing conclusions it reaches about his administration of Marion Co.'s juvenile justice system. The Star does offer these 7 solutions:

  • Reduce the overuse of harsh discipline by schools.
  • Expand community mental health care.
  • Make juvenile court records available to the public.
  • Add judges.
  • Limit the waiver of counsel.
  • Adopt the Missouri model (i.e. replace large reformatories with therapeutic centers and group homes).
  • Add teeth to the state's oversight of county-run detention centers.

And who will be in charge of implementing these changes at the state level? That would be Judge James Payne, the man the Star quietly tells us is largely responsible for creating this mess.


Anonymous said...

Actually most of that Gary, would be in the hands of the state's judges, who are in charge of overseeing the county-based detention centers and ultimately running the criminal justice system. It's also in the hands of the state legislature, which makes up the laws. Sorry if our suggestions didn't please you, but if you actually understand the system, you have to realize that it isn't simply an issue of one former judge, who deserves blame, but of collective neglect both by county officials, state officials and judges not willing to actually force the issue of how juvenile justice should be run. And let's not forget the lawyers who didn't speak up over the last two decades.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I have no problem with the solutions the Star recommends and you will find nothing in my post that it is critical of those solutions. If you understand the system, you no doubt discovered in your research the strong correlation between juveniles who commit crimes and children who have abusive parents. DCS' job is to protect children from abuse and neglect. When the state fails to protect these children, they will likely become problem children who wind up in juvenile detention. It is worth questioning whether the person now in charge of protecting children will do any better at that job than he did running the Marion Co. juvenile justice system, which I thought your report resoundingly condemned.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Rishawn--I should add that I thought part of the approach the Star recommends, such as the group homes and therapeutic centers, are designed to treat the juveniles other than as criminals. Hence, perhaps I assume incorrectly that these programs would be administered by DCS and not the Dept. of Corrections.

Anonymous said...

DCS, which primarily handles child welfare cases and not juvenile justice -- although as Cale Bradford has noted, an untreated CHINS case ends up being a juvenile case -- could possibly run such a system. More likely, a separate department of youth services such as that set up in Missouri could also do the task. The same on the county level. So it's not necessarily a matter in which DCS would or should be involved simply because of the nature of the issue.

You may be right to question whether he who heads DCS should be the one to do so. But that's not the question at the heart of the series -- laser focus is key to explaining an issue at times -- and therefore it didn't come up. Sometimes you have to start at the beginning and that's what we did. Those who aren't satisfied should simply continue reading the series over time instead of complaining. Last I checked, there are only three publications that have written about the juvenile justice system's problems in the last three years -- and only one of which has done any extensive look. And last I checked, a "real blogger" -- if that actually means anything in an age where media exists on multiple platforms -- was not among them.

Debbie said...

While, i agree with a part of the comments listed, I'd like to offer a fresh perspective, from someone who has an ongoing case pending in the juvenile justice system.

My son is 16 and a half years old. 2 and a half years ago, he tried to have me killed, by a friend. Prior to that my home was burglarized several times, at the request of my son. He did this because he did not agree with my rules, which meant that he had to do basic chores and go to school. I have 2 other sons, both well behaved and on the honor roll.

We've been involved in an ongoing case since 2005. No resolution as of yet. It has been the attempt of his public defender and his probation officer to attack my character versus trying to assess the problems and a resolution to those problems. In fact, six months into the case, I also found out that my son molested his younger brothers.

Initially his public defender denied this and his probation officer wanted to ignore it. It wasn't until I took my younger son to counseling that someone else became involved and said "Hey, this child has a problem." Up until that point, no one including the judge wanted to hear that my oldest son had a problem. It was easier for my 16 year olds probation officer to point the finger at me, because I cannot allow this child to come back into my home.

So my question to you is, what would you do? Would you want this child in your home? Would you let your kids hang out with him? Would either of you be comfortable with that?

Quite simply this is a system that needs to do the following.
**Assess the problem.
**Look at all aspects of the situation.
**Stop looking for a scapegoat. Sometimes kids need to be held accountable.
**Accept that sometimes, kids cannot be in normal home settings or even group settings, and work to get the child into a more condusive situation that will provide intense help. (Therapy when needed)
**Remember that kids make their own decisions and act accordingly.
**Stop holding the parents background (childhood) against them in order to provide an excuse for the way their child behaves.
**Assign punishment fairly and as it is due.

This seems simple enough but it isn't done.