He wasn’t competent to stand trial

Youth Justice | 02/02/2021

Shawanda Tyson

When my friend’s son got into an altercation with a manager at work one day, he was arrested. Although he was 17 at the time, his mind was more like 14 because of his disabilities. My friend helped her son with his day-to-day because he wasn’t self-sufficient. Everybody liked him because of his childlike personality. 

With all this information, our court system wanted to wait until he was 18 in order to try him as an adult. No one was talking about his competency. As a mom who has a son with similar circumstances, it outraged me. My friend went through so much to try to prove that her son was not competent to stand trial. I didn’t know at the time that Indiana is one of only five states in the country that do not have statewide competency to stand trial for our kids.  

My friend was stressed out every day and calling everyone she could for help. I didn’t get why no one understood that his body was one age that his mind wasn’t. He was a kid. Eventually, my friend did contact a center that helped her, and it is the only reason he isn’t locked up right now.  

The whole situation was awful. Besides feeling the injustice and wondering if anything like this could ever happen to my son, it brought me back to my childhood when my mother was fighting for my brother. They continually locked up my brother, who had disabilities. My brother was a true victim of the juvenile system. It affects him to this day, and similar situations happened to my cousin too. 

I don’t know what would have happened to my friend’s son if he wasn’t nearly 18, I don’t know why our children don’t have competency hearings, but it has to end. Please join me and other Hoosiers who want to end the harmful policies and practices of our youth justice system and join the movement today.   

I am fighting for my son and every child in Indiana like him because, while my son has never been in trouble, every kid makes mistakes and kids like mine are at serious risk. I’m fighting to make sure my friend’s voice is heard, my brother’s voice is heard, my cousin’s voice is heard and so any kid in our state who is facing trial gets the competency hearing they deserve

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