Indianapolis, Indiana (March 4, 2019) — The Indianapolis Urban League (IUL) submits this letter of support to oppose efforts to reduce the age that juveniles can be waived to adult court for acts of violent crime from the current age of 14, to 12 years of age as outlined in the recently passed Indiana Senate Legislation, SB 279 Waiver for Attempted Murder.
IUL further reiterates its support for a Minimum Age for Detention of juveniles in adult and juvenile facilities be established in Indiana law. The lack of a minimum age for a child to be held in a secure detention facility in Indiana exposes young people to many dangers, not the least of which is the fact that younger children are at the greatest risk of being victims of violence when in custody.
While the terrible events in Noblesville and similar horrific acts of violence committed by young offenders demands a proper response, the Indianapolis Urban League does not believe that allowing children as young as 12 to be waived to adult court is an acceptable or judicious approach.
Young people of this age are still developing and maturing in both a physiological and cognitive manner. Simply stated these children are not adults. As the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana has noted: “Trying and sentencing children in the adult system is not an age-appropriate or developmentally-appropriate justice response to children in trouble with the law”.
Furthermore, research has demonstrated that such policies disproportionately and negatively impact urban youth of color. In Marion County, for example, there are currently 25 youth who have been waived to adult court for violent acts. These youth are ages 14-17. 23 of the 25 youth are Black, or 92%.
The concept of tempering justice with mercy is found in the New Testament’s Sermon on the Mount in Mathew 5:7 (Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy) and in Portia’s speech in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
As the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas noted” . . . mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution and justice without mercy is cruelty.”
Mercy is not a new concept nor is it outdated.
We join with the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana (CPLI) to demand justice for those who cannot speak for themselves by opposing Indiana Senate Bill 279.
Tony Mason Mark A. Russell
President & CEO Director of Advocacy & Family Services
Indianapolis Urban League Indianapolis Urban League