Lawmakers calling for leadership change within Kentucky’s juvenile justice system

A task force made up of lawmakers from the Kentucky House and Senate met Thursday in Frankfort...
A task force made up of lawmakers from the Kentucky House and Senate met Thursday in Frankfort to discuss changes in leadership for the Kentucky Juvenile Justice System.(Phil Pendleton)
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 11:18 AM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - A group of lawmakers are calling for a change in leadership within Kentucky’s juvenile justice system. The call comes after recent riots and most recently a federal lawsuit alleging widespread problems at the state’s juvenile detention centers. Staff was injured and a teenage girl was gang-raped at a facility last year in Adair County. There have been other problems in facilities in Louisville and Western Kentucky.

The task force members, which is made up of lawmakers from the House and the Senate, say positive steps have been taken by Governor Andy Beshear including separating boys and girls.

But they say a toxic culture still exists and the Governor needs to make changes in leadership. A newly filed federal lawsuit includes allegations from 2 former employees in Adair County who detail the dangerous treatment of youth, including almost sadistic and inhumane conditions. There were other cases of neglect and abuse. Senators say staff are having to manage difficult situations.

“DJJ worked great when it was first established and the purpose it was established for. It’s not the same group of kids in these facilities now. These are more hard core, more violent overall. We have to adjust to that,” said Sen. Danny Carroll from Benton.

Lawmakers say the problem is not with the newly appointed Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey, that it goes further down than that. Lawmakers say they want access to employees so that they are not scared to report problems.

They also say an increase in gang behavior is leading to more kids committing violent offenses.