Lawmakers calling for leadership change within Kentucky’s juvenile justice system
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - A group of lawmakers is calling for a change in leadership within Kentucky’s juvenile justice system.
This comes after recent riots and, most recently, a federal lawsuit alleging widespread problems at Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers.
Staff members were injured and a teenage girl was gang-raped at a facility last year in Adair County. There have also been other problems at juvenile detention center facilities in Louisville and Western Kentucky.
Kentucky House and Senate members say there is a crisis within the Department for Juvenile Justice and say there needs to be a leadership change within the department.
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The task force members say positive steps have been taken by the Governor, 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 two former employees in Adair County who detail dangerous treatment of youth, almost sadistic and inhumane conditions.
There were other cases of neglect and abuse. Senators say staff members are having to manage difficult situations.
“DJJ worked great when it was first established and the purpose it was established for,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton. “It’s not the same group of kids in these facilities now. These are more hardcore, more violent overall. We have to adjust to that.”
Lawmakers say an increase in gang behavior is leading to more kids committing violent offenses.
Governor Andy Beshear says he’s made changes and recommendations.
“My goal is to get this fixed. And I want somebody who is completely vested in getting it fixed,” Beshear said. “The current commissioner came from outside the system. Had worked in the system in the past.”
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.
State Budget Director John Hicks says the General Assembly will also be asked to appropriate millions of dollars of funds, including a sustainable $50,000 starting salary for juvenile justice frontline workers.
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