two from the star
Sunday's Indianapolis Star had a rather shocking front-page story that I've been meaning to mention. It dealt with parents who leave their children unattended while they (the parents) gamble at Indiana's riverboat casinos, and recent reforms in the state's child-endangerment law that had the unintended consequence of exempting merely leaving children unattended for hours on end.
They were found in sweltering cars, freezing trucks, hotel rooms and parking garages -- children as young as 3 months old who had been left alone, sometimes for hours, while their parents pumped token after token into slot machines.
But for the 215 children left unattended at Indiana's 10 riverboat casinos since 1999, the state offers little protection.
Indiana does not require its riverboats to provide child care. And a 1999 change to state law intended to make it easier to prosecute cases of child neglect has instead made it more difficult. State Police estimate only about half a dozen of the cases have ever been prosecuted.
...Much of the problem, county prosecutors say, is with the 1999 change to the child neglect law.
The change stemmed from a 1985 ruling in which the Indiana Supreme Court found the previous neglect law was unconstitutionally vague. Under the law, the court ruled, even the practice of raising a child in a high-rise apartment building could be considered a crime that could endanger a child.
Lawmakers attempted to strengthen the law by raising some cases of neglect from a Class D to a Class C felony. But the revised law made leaving a child unattended a crime of neglect only if the child is hurt or otherwise endangered.
That meant that simply leaving a child unattended wasn't grounds for prosecution.
Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, and Rep. Bill Ruppel, R-North Manchester, two of the bill's authors, say they intend to make changing the law a priority next year.
"Our purpose wasn't to allow an escape hatch," Foley said. "It was to make things more defined, to clarify the law, not to get a way out for this kind of sloppy parenting."
The article notes that so far, no children have died while being left unattended at a casino. Still, with the sewltering summer months just around the corner, it's just a matter of time. The unintentional shortcoming of Indiana's child endangerment law needs to be addressed posthaste. I also agree with an opinion the Star expressed in a Sunday editorial -- parents caught leaving children unattended should be banned for life from the casino.
(continued in the next post)