Beshear proposes big changes after riots hurt multiple people at juvenile detention centers

Beshear proposed having a facility for female detainees only, rather than housing them in the same units.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:01 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - After a riot at a juvenile detention center leaves one employee in the hospital, a teenage girl allegedly assaulted and multiple others injured, Governor Andy Beshear said changes are coming.

“What they are going to see from me is somebody actively involved who wants to make sure they can go home to their families each and every night and that none of them are ever assaulted,” Beshear told WAVE News Troubleshooters.

Beshear proposed having a facility for female detainees only, rather than housing them in the same units as reported by several sources but disputed by the Cabinet’s spokesperson, Morgan Hall.

He also would like to re-arrange the structure of the detention centers, designating some facilities for violent offenders, and others for non-violent youth.

Beshear said the impact may be that some families have to travel farther to see their incarcerated youth.

“The goal here is safety,” Beshear said. “Safety for the juveniles that we are housing but also safety for our DJJ Officers. I can’t sit back and watch another assault.”

“At what point would you consider calling in the National Guard to get situations like in Lyndon and Adair under control?” Beshear was asked.

“The National Guard is not trained in corrections either for a DJJ facility or others,” he said.

“But that is the concern of some of the employees, that they themselves are not being trained,” WAVE News Troubleshooter Natalia Martinez asked.

“I’m already talking about needing more tools for those DJJ folks to better protect themselves. But sending people into one of these facilities who are fully untrained in, to one of these facilities can cause as many problems.”

The concerns have hit a boiling point. Whistleblowers at both the embattled detention center in Lyndon, and at Adair County have come forward, describing shocking conditions for both the teenage detainees and the employees.

Three registered nurses who quit working at Adair because of the things they said they witnessed, told WAVE News they could not ethically and morally stay.

The described guards putting their hands on teens, teens having sex, not feeding detainees as a form of punishment, teens locked in isolation for days, not getting showers of phone calls to their parents or lawyers, incidents not being documented or reports recorded with false narratives, no schooling and close to no training for the employees.

It was not just the three nurses that described these problems. WAVE News Troubleshooters and The County Adair Community Voice spoke to multiple other sources off the record who spoke of the same issues.

The nurses said they also experienced times when they suspected a teen was injured but the center’s supervisor did not allow them to make an assessment. The supervisor restricted her even when a teen was unresponsive.

“She does not want to send them to the emergency room because then there will be documentation of what happened at her facility,” Joanne Alvarado said.

Beshear answered our questions about change but shied away from talking about accountability for a Justice Cabinet whose Probation and Parole and Juvenile Justice Department has been at the center of multiple investigations in which people were either killed or injured.

“Given the problems at Probation and Parole, with Fred O’Bannon being killed, Officer Chris Lane being shot, and then the problems at the juvenile detention center in Lyndon, now the problems at the juvenile detention center in Adair, how confident are you in the leadership of the justice cabinet?” Beshear was asked.

“Oh, I believe that Secretary Kerry Harvey is a dedicated Kentuckian who served as a US Attorney,” he said of the Cabinet’s Secretary overseeing both departments. “I think he is dealing with serious and significant challenges in our justice system that go back long before he took over.”

Beshear said the riot at Adair, with a teen sexually assaulted and an employee having to be flown to the hospital is something he doesn’t want to see again.

“What they are going to see from me is somebody actively involved who wants to make sure they can go home to their families each and every night and that none of them are ever assaulted,” Beshear said.