2 juvenile justice bills advance in Senate

Published 4:14 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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The Kentucky Lantern

Two Senate bills aimed at addressing Kentucky’s juvenile justice issues cleared the Senate Appropriations and Revenue committee unanimously on Wednesday.

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The first, SB162, would allot millions of dollars to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)  for salaries, retention, new workers, security upgrades and more – among other things.

Those price tags are:

• $3.2 million for salary increases that have been promised to DJJ workers.

• $4.8 million for DJJ salary increases to other job classifications.

• $30 million to the adult corrections budget for salary increases for corrections officers.

• $9.7 million for DJJ for 146 new youth workers for detention centers.

• $200k for DJJ for development of a defender management system.

• $4 million to DJJ for security upgrades and basic security needs.

• $1.5 million for a diversionary program that will identify and provide treatment for juveniles needing mental health support for “severe” mental illnesses.

• $1.75 million to retain design architects who know about detention designs and can help design regional facilities.

“We must ensure DJJ never returns to the state it has functioned in over the past few years,” Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, told colleagues while presenting the latest version of his bill.

Additionally, the bill would require:

• All eight juvenile detention centers to be under the supervision of one supervisor who reports directly to the commissioner.

• A maintained comprehensive, centralized data tracking system for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

An independent audit

A second bill, sponsored by Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, would allocate $500,000 for an independent review of Kentucky DJJ.

“This legislation would tell the Office of the Auditor to contract with an outside independent third party to perform a full performance review of these DJJ pre-adjudication facilities,” Givens told colleagues, stressing the “independent” part.

“We’re saying whatever entity that the auditor contracts with cannot be the current entity that accredits these facilities,” he said.

The audit scope, Givens said, would include:

• Interviews with frontline employees

• Review of the current staffing procedures and compliance or non compliance with those procedures

• Review of incident reporting procedures

• Receipt review and actions taken by DJJ related to complaints and concerns from employees

The report would be due on Oct. 15.

In February, a Republican-backed bill that would reopen a juvenile detention center in Louisville passed the House 79-18 and may now go to the Senate for a vote.