The problem is that an increasing number of people are entering the criminal justice system when they are juveniles. However, "defending a child" is not one of the specialties you'll find at most law schools, much less the even more challenging topic of how the justice system can intervene with positive result during the critical period when a kid can be set on the right path or begin a downward spiral that few recover from.
Not all juvenile offenders are victims, but even the least empathetic among us must recognize that we'll be dealing with these people for the rest of their lives if we don't make a supreme effort to solve the problem when they are young. This is our justice system's single best chance at prevention, and making the best of that opportunity starts with competent representation in court.
To make this issue even more challenging, the vast majority of these kids come from a disadvantaged background, so their families can't afford to hire an attorney. That means Public Defenders are often tasked with the dual challenge of both providing competent indigent representation in a criminal or juvenile delinquency case and working with a client who is often not yet mentally equipped to understand the irrevocable nature of poor decisions.
In 2006, a study of juvenile defendants in Indiana found that roughly 50% of juveniles waived their right to representation in delinquency proceedings. In two counties, this number was as high as 80%. That is a disheartening statistic when you stop to think that these kids have a lifetime ahead of them following the path that this decision places them on.
Fortunately, Hoosiers know how to respond positively to valid criticism. Larry Landis, Director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, and Kaarin Lueck, a former public defender, and now Juvenile Magistrate in Wayne County, acknowledged this problem and acted to provide a better future for kids in Indiana's court system.
Kaarin and Larry worked with the National Juvenile Defender Center to send a group of Indiana Public Defenders to a JTIP "Train the Trainer" program. The result is that 15 Public Defenders from Indiana are now certified to train their peers in the special skills and techniques required to provide excellent counsel to juvenile defendants.
We are proud that attorneys in Indiana are stepping up to solve this problem, and Doxpop was privileged to support this certification program with a donation to defray some of their costs.
The newly certified trainers from Indiana are:
- Jill Acklin from Hamilton County
- Jill Denman from Huntington County
- Greg Fumarolo, from Allen County
- Frank Cardis, From Dearborn County
- Geoff Georgi from Lake County
- Michael Ice from Morgan County
- Jill Johnson from Marion County
- Neesha Patel from Marion County
- Joann Price from Lake County
- Sonny Reicz from Vanderburgh County
- Rachel Romans-Lagunas from Marion County
- Mark St. James from St. Joseph County
- Steve Smith from Madison County
The first training scheduled at which the new trainers will use JTIP is Thursday, June 11, 2015, so this group has already hit the ground running!
Congratulations to the newly certified JTIP trainers, and thanks for your dedication to Indiana's youth!