KY Youth Advocates weighs in on investigation of Dept of Juvenile Justice Skip to content

KY Youth Advocates weighs in on investigation of Dept of Juvenile Justice

“Kentucky’s juvenile justice system is failing kids and community safety every day.”

2 min read

A statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

Call it a system failure. Call it a crisis. Call it a hot mess. Call it what you want but Kentucky’s juvenile justice system is failing kids and community safety every day.

Kentucky’s leaders have abrogated their leadership responsibilities in this crucial arena so today’s announcement that the Justice Department is opening a statewide investigation into Kentucky’s Department of Juvenile Justice is welcome news indeed!

The Beshear Administration, in response to a spate of tragedies that grabbed media headlines, has begun to make modest – very modest – improvements. And yet in contrast to other aspects of this Administration, such as the child welfare sector, the juvenile justice arena is a closed shop, disdaining access to advocates.

It treats symptoms and not root causes of the prolonged systemic failures that have compounded into the current crisis. Its solutions are far too incremental rather than genuine innovation.

The failure of leadership is also squarely on the General Assembly. Whereas Kentucky was a national leader in juvenile justice reform only a decade ago, the current legislative canvas ignored the real issues at hand. Creative ideas from leaders, such as Senators Carroll and Westerfield, are sidelined. And, the only real action is politically-motivated measures that actually exacerbate the crisis at hand.

We look forward to the Justice Department’s comprehensive civil rights investigation. They have accurately assessed the landscape and are targeting the precise areas of concern that are most important, including excessive use of pepper spray and physical force, physical and sexual abuse, prolonged isolation, and access to adequate mental health care and special education and related services to kids with disabilities. That is a compliment to their thorough homework and hopefully a predicate to findings that will truly transform the very foundation of a flawed system into one that serves kids while also holding them accountable.

Getting kids back on track. Emphasizing preventative measures to keep kids from ever getting into trouble. And protecting community safety. Those commitments should have come from state leaders. They have not.

Therefore, we commend the Justice Department for opening this federal investigation. We as a Commonwealth have a moral imperative to make this work for all kids and families.


Print Friendly and PDF

Forward Kentucky

The editorial board of Forward Kentucky. Articles under this author name have been written, edited, and approved by a number of the contributors on this site, as well as the publisher.

Twitter Facebook Website Louisville, KY