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Audit of Kentucky’s juvenile jails dinged for isolation, use of force policies

There are some serious issues in our juvenile detention centers. This story points out some of them.

2 min read
Auditor Allison Ball discusses her department’s audit of juvenile jails. (photo by Tom Latek)

Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Allison Ball released the results Wednesday of a full performance review of the pre-adjudication detention centers operated by the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). 

Following a request made by the General Assembly, then-Auditor Mike Harmon contracted with CGL Management Group, LLC (“CGL”) in August 2023 to conduct an independent report of DJJ. CGL is an international firm that specializes in criminal justice consulting and planning.

The review, which focused on a performance assessment of the eight pre-adjudication facilities and programs operated and administered by DJJ, is now complete and contains several findings, which include: 

  • Most of the findings from the 2017 audit by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) have not been operationalized.
  • DJJ’s policies and procedures for isolation are inconsistently defined, applied, and in conflict with nationally recognized best practices.
  • DJJ’s use of force practices are inconsistent with national best practices and poorly deployed and defined. The introduction of chemical agents, tasers, and other security control devices has been done without a policy in place.
  • DJJ’s juvenile detention facilities are understaffed. This understaffing fuels high levels of overtime which can negatively impact recruitment and retention.
  • DJJ’s Detention Division lacks a unified strategic direction. This lack of direction permeates to the detention facilities where inconsistent practices are implemented.  

“The state of the Department of Juvenile Justice has been a concern across the commonwealth and a legislative priority over the past several years,” Ball said. “The findings from this review demonstrate a lack of leadership from the Beshear Administration which has led to disorganization across facilities, and as a result, the unacceptably poor treatment of Kentucky youth.”  

Morgan Hall with the Justice Cabinet says the Auditor’s office didn’t provide them a copy of the report until it was released and were also not given the opportunity to review the audit or respond before it was published.

She noted, “Unlike the previous administration, we’ve started making sweeping improvements to the juvenile justice system, including making it a priority to protect staff and juveniles and create secure facilities by increasing staffing levels. In February last year, Gov. Beshear reclassified youth workers to correctional officers and raised the starting salary to $50,000 annually, which allowed DJJ to make great strides in hiring bringing Fayette, Boyd and Breathitt to almost full staffing levels. In the past year, as a result of the administration’s efforts, we have increased frontline correctional officers by 63%. The highest number DJJ has employed in recent history, and we are continuing to recruit and retain to further secure our facilities.”

She also provided a link to more information on the Beshear administration’s changes, which you can see at

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