Explainer: The Significance of Indiana’s IOYouth Bill

March 15, 2022

On March 11, 2022, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed a major set of juvenile justice policy reforms that will enhance public safety, improve youth outcomes, and use state resources more efficiently. Some of the key provisions include expanding precourt diversion opportunities, limiting the use of detention for youth under 12 years old, and requiring the development of a statewide plan to collect and track key juvenile justice data.

The legislation arose from recommendations that came out of Indiana’s Improving Outcomes for Youth (IOYouth) initiative, which began in 2020 with assistance from experts at the CSG Justice Center. IOYouth is a data-driven approach that states can use to reform their juvenile justice policies to improve youth outcomes and public safety.

Here’s what you need to know about HB 1359, “Juvenile Law Matters.”


     1. Why Is this Legislation Needed?


The majority of youth in Indiana who are referred to juvenile court are there for low-level and nonviolent offenses, including a significant number of children under 12 years old. These youth would be better served through community-based programming outside the juvenile justice system. Limited resources should instead be prioritized for youth with the highest public safety risk. Additionally, many youth are not matched to appropriate supervision and services, which should be tailored to their individual needs and based on their likelihood of reoffending.


Indiana also lacks the ability to track youth as they flow through the juvenile justice system. This absence of key data means state leaders have limited understanding or information about what happens to youth as they move through the system. On top of this, there are no formal quality assurance and data collection processes to help determine whether juvenile services and resources improve public safety and youth outcomes.


     2. What Does this Legislation Mean for Youth in Indiana?


This legislation will help ensure that youth in Indiana are matched with the best supports to improve outcomes while also holding them accountable for their actions. Importantly, while the bill establishes consistent statewide guidelines, it also guarantees that jurisdictions will maintain local discretion and flexibility.

Key provisions include the following:

  1. Creating new statewide grant programs to increase diversion opportunities, create community-based alternatives to incarceration, and expand reintegration services that will support reentry to the community
  2. Requiring the use of risk-based screening and assessment tools to inform diversion and dispositional decisions and match children with the most appropriate type of supervision and services that can reduce their likelihood of recidivism
  3. Requiring the use of a detention screening tool and limiting the detention of youth under 12 years old unless there is a direct public safety risk
  4. Establishing a statewide data collection plan for key juvenile justice information such as system performance, equity measures, and youth outcomes, which will allow Indiana policymakers to better set goals, measure progress, and identify what is and is not working


     3. How Were the Recommendations Developed?


Under the leadership of Rep. Wendy McNamara (R) and Sen. Michael Crider (R), and the Commission on the Status of Children in Indiana, Indiana launched its IOYouth initiative in September 2020 to analyze the state’s juvenile justice system and identify areas for improvement that would promote public safety, advance racial and ethnic equity within the system, and improve outcomes for youth.


The CSG Justice Center helped the bipartisan Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force undertake a comprehensive, data-driven review of the juvenile system. In December 2021, the Task Force reached consensus on a set of research-based policy recommendations that were translated into legislation.


     4. What’s Next for IOYouth in Indiana?


By July 2023, the legislation requires the creation of a statewide oversight committee to develop policies and plans for implementing the legislative provisions, as well as the development of several new diversion and behavioral health grant programs.

Additionally, the oversight committee will need to submit annual reports to the governor, chief justice, and legislative council that track and measure key data on youth diversion, detention, reintegration, recidivism, and other performance measures.


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