Twelve-year-olds could be put in the adult prison system instead of the one for juveniles if a state Senate bill that may have been filed because of the Noblesville West Middle School shooting passes.
“If you’re gonna put juveniles into any kind of correctional system, they should be in youth, with youth in the juvenile system and not adult,” said Katie Blair, ACLU public policy and advocacy director.
The ACLU opposes the bill (SB 449), not only because it could put 12-year-olds in the adult system for certain serious crimes, like attempted murder, but also because it could be seen as racist.
“Given the deep racial inequalities in every level of our criminal legal system, this type of discretion could be wielded disproportionately against marginalized populations, especially children of color,” said Blair, who added there are many other reasons not to put a child in the adult system.
“Their brains aren’t fully formed so they can’t be treated as adults. They just aren’t there mentally,” she said. “They’re in a greater risk for having violence committed against them. There’s a higher rate of suicide.”
Blair said they could also be placed in solitary, which she said has a “whole host of horrible problems associated with it”.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Erin Houchin of Salem, will get a hearing Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.
Blair said the bill is nearly identical to one that was introduced last year that would have also moved the minimum age from 13 to 12. That bill, she said, was in reaction to the Noblesville West shooting.
“While that is a horrible situation that happened, we believe that you shouldn’t legislate based on one horrible incident.”