Wyo House Approves Juvenile Justice Bills

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming police could get some direction from state lawmakers on how to deal with young people who are drinking alcohol and when it's proper to take young offenders to jail.
The Wyoming House of Representatives on Friday gave preliminary approval to two bills that would direct how law enforcement deals with offenders under the age of 21. Supporters say one bill would clarify the state law on underage drinking. It would specify that people under age 21 could drink in the presence of their parents, in church services or for medicinal reasons. The other bill would set standards for police officers to follow to determine whether they should take juvenile offenders to jail and if so, what type of facility would be appropriate.

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House Bill 12 and 13

I am writing this to express my deepest concern for the youth of our community. I am a single parent that raised 3 children here in our community. I have been exposed to the judicial system here far too many times in regards to chooses made by a family member. I do not consume alcohol nor have I in at least 15 years. The course of the legislative stance on alcohol consumption by underage youth and juvenile detention has me deeply disturbed.

I have read the article in the Sheridan Press on Saturday, February 13, 2010 in which both House Bill 12 Juvenile Detention and House Bill 13 were passed by a landslide. I realize the bill still has to be approved by the Senate; however, there is no time to waste to get the word out and call to action the adults in our community to rise up and be responsible.

My first response was actually one of utter shock. The House Bill 12 in which the state is allowing under the age of 21 drinking when in the presence of a parent and/or legal guardian or church services or for medicinal reasons. The bill has NO underage drinking set forth therefore this is implied that if a parent wants to allow their 10 year old to consume alcoholic beverages they may do so. So what is to happen to our youth during say the rodeo when the streets are blocked off and filled with people who are consuming alcohol, is it okay for a parent to take their child with them and allow them to drink? As the bill now reads there is no stipulation as to the location of the consumption of alcohol as long as they are with a parent or legal guardian. Furthermore, with the amount of alcohol and/or drug use related incidents of auto accidents, burglary, suicides, malicious destruction, domestic violence and death how will passing this law encourage abstinence from the consumption of alcohol and or drugs?

The House Bill 12 Juvenile Detention is a bill which will allow the youth of our community to be held in detention if the assessment to be done by the sheriff indicates that they should be held. The concern I have with this is that the more power will be given to the Sheriff through the assessment process, according to the actual bill that is published on the Wyoming Legislative site. The reason I have concern over this is that too much power is being put into one person’s hands. Who is to oversee the Sheriff in these decisions? When one person is given too much power “we the people” start to loose our freedom and rights as citizens. The other concern that I have is, that the bill states the notification to the parent or legal guardian is to be done as soon as possible within 12 hours. If my child came in even an hour late I was extremely concerned and would begin to look for them. What happens in those 11 ¾ hours that the juvenile is being held in the custody of the detention center? This to me is an entirely unreasonable amount of time to hold someone before notifying the parent or legal guardian. The bill does stipulate that there will be certain detention facilities to house our you so that they are not integrated in the adult populations which is pleasing to know.

In the past few months we have seen and heard so much negative talk about our youth in this community and now we want to allow underage drinking. The youth of this community are the future of this nation. I believe in our youth and their abilities to be a productive and very important part of our country as long as they are given a solid foundation to stand on. We as the responsible adults need to readdress this bill with our eyes wide open and realize that it is our responsibility to raise our children with a hope of a future.

The irony in all this is the placement of the article, right next to an article by Micheal Pearlman called “The Defense Rarely Rests” in which Robert Jones, supervising attorney, states “if there’s a common thread among his clients, it’s that their legal problems are connected to drugs and alcohol. The large majority of our clients have substance abuse issues. It’s not 100 percent, but it’s awful close”. This is coming from the public defenders office who currently has is handling 19 juvenile cases according to the Sheridan Press. This community has seen far too many of our youth die due to alcohol and/or drug use in the 40 years that I have resided here. We often here that the amount of at-risk youth in our community is entirely too high and have many programs in place to help the such as the Juvenile Justice program, drug court, substance abuse treatment, Chins petitions, family counseling services, behavioral modification summer programs, diversion programs and what for? When the leading cause of most of the crimes are correlated to the consumption of alcohol and/or drug use.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and now I would like to ask that every concerned parent in this community take the time to voice their opinion to our elected officials. Remember what is to come of all this is in the hands of those who do or do not respond to the bills that are being passed. Our future is in the youth of our nation. Hear this as a call to action, no one has the right to complain about a situation if they are unwilling to take action no matter what the outcome may be.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Gilkey
“A citizen and concerned parent”

Stupid Legislators?!

You have got to be kidding me!! Those under the age of 21 will be allowed to drink in the presence of their parents, at church services or for medicinal purposed?? BS! Contributing to the delinquency of a minor comes to mind!
Those under the age of 21 do not need to be drinking – period! I cannot believe our legislators can be so stupid! The BAC has been reduced to .08%, so for a lot of people, one drink can get you arrested for drunk driving. Who is going to watch these kids to keep them from getting behind the wheel and driving after they have been drinking at a family reunion, a church service or at the doctor’s office to get a dose of alcohol for a medicinal reason!?!? I know of no medicinal reason for children to be drinking alcohol.
With the high numbers of underage drinking and driving deaths, I cannot believe our legislators would put language of this type into any law allowing this type of behavior? It has already been determined through studies that the average teenage brain does not function the same level as an adult when operating a motor vehicle… so now you want to make stupid provisions to justify underage drinking?! Haven’t enough of our youth died needlessly because of drunk driving? OMG, what morons we have making laws for us!

Whats' the point in have a "drinking age" anyway?