When I was 16, I was arrested on my way to a basketball game. I was in a car that I learned was stolen after I got in it, but I didn’t steal it. There were five people in the car, including my little brother and myself. Some of us went to a juvenile center (including my brother and me) and some went to Marion County jail. None of us were adults yet.
Looking back, I realize I could have been tried as an adult. One of the kids in the car was. He had been in trouble before and after he got in trouble again, they threw the book at him. Another kid in the car couldn’t produce an ID when we were pulled over. I never saw him again, and I believe he was deported.
I could have faced outrageous fines and fees. I could have a record following me around to this day. My life could have been destroyed, but I had a mentor who was an attorney. His help changed my life and the life of my little brother. He helped me negotiate my sentence and talked on my behalf, so I didn’t have to rely on a public defender.
Somehow, he negotiated that if I stayed out of trouble for three years, my record would be expunged. In Indiana, having your childhood record expunged isn’t a given, though Senate Bill 368 would right this wrong. He also negotiated my fees because I didn’t have the money to pay the high costs of our youth justice system. I spent six months on probation and did 80 hours of community service, which covered most of the costs.
Today, I’m a business owner. I contribute to our community and I have a life filled with hope and possibility. Still, I can’t ignore that our youth justice system is broken. I hope you don’t either.
The youth justice system is supposed to be restorative. It doesn’t make sense for records to follow kids around for the rest of their lives. And kids shouldn’t be held in adult jails where they are exposed and vulnerable.
There is a reason minors are separate from adults. Kids make choices they would not make as adults. The choices I made then were not the same choices I would make today. I was given the opportunity to prove that. I want Senate Bill 368 to pass because I believe all kids should be given the same opportunity to change their lives.
If you agree that kids should not be held back for life over mistakes they made before they understand the real consequences, then please join me and email these key Senators today. Hearing from you can help Senate Bill 368 stay alive as we head to the last half of the legislative session.