Help create a better youth justice system

Youth Justice | 01/06/2022

Johnetta Brown
Youth Justice Advocate

I spoke to the Indiana Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code this fall because I believe costs and fees imposed by our juvenile justice system are a problem, especially for low-income families already struggling to make ends meet. I also believe Juvenile Life without Parole is wrong.  

The legislative session has started, and I know my voice will continue to make a difference. I also know that creating a better youth justice system in Indiana takes all of us. Please take a moment today to join me and sign this petition.

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My name is Johnetta Brown, and I am not an expert on our youth justice system. However, I am a mother of seven children and my 16-year-old daughter has had a few encounters with our youth justice system.  

I’m not just here for me and my daughter. I am here today because I believe costs and fees imposed by our juvenile justice system are a problem, especially for low-income families already struggling to make ends meet. I am also here because I believe Juvenile Life without Parole is wrong.  

The worst time of your life is watching your child make a mistake, go through tough things and face the juvenile system. For my daughter, life has not been easy. She’s been in therapy since age eight. She learned early on that she was adopted, and it caused a lot of emotional trauma. At age 13, she became pregnant. And yes, she’s experienced our youth justice system a few times now. She recently left a detention center and probation was recommended by the Dept. of Corrections.  

As far as the cost of that, I am grateful to live in Marion County because, as I understand it, costs and fees vary by county. If I lived in another county, one with a higher cost, my family would not have been able to afford the costs and fees. It would have made it difficult to pay bills, buy groceries and provide necessities for my family. Beyond just that basic knowledge of the financial insecurity this can place a family in—the money you save for a better future is gone when this happens.  

I don’t think it is right to put such financial burdens on families who are often both facing their worst nightmare and unable to afford it. As a parent, I can say that your child facing the system feels mentally and emotionally overwhelming in so many ways. You try to stand strong and look strong, even when the world around you is crumbling.  

Families with financial resources have a much easier time getting their children’s records wiped clean and giving them a chance to start over. Children who maybe even committed similar crimes, but whose families are already struggling to pay bills and have necessities, are often still facing negative consequences well into their adult life because of costs and fees. To me, that’s not justice. It’s not helping the kids who need to be supported by our systems instead of continually punished by them.  

Speaking from the hardship of knowing what is like to have your child experience the system, it’s already hard enough. It’s straining enough. It’s difficult enough, without having the additional monetary burden.  

While I mostly told you why I hope you end costs and fees associated with youth prosecution this legislative session, I also hope you abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole. Children have young and still developing minds. As adults, we understand the impact of actions and reactions, but children do not – not in the same way. I do not agree with Juvenile Life Without Parole at all. 

Thank you for your time today.  

 

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