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Kentucky partially closing its only all-girl juvenile detention facility is 'unacceptable' some say

 Campbell County Juvenile Detention Center
Zack Carreon
/
WVXU
Campbell County Juvenile Detention Center

While the detention center in Newport works to hire more staff, organizations like Kentucky Youth Advocates are encouraging Kentucky's politicians to look for new solutions to the Commonwealth's ongoing issues in juvenile justice.

Last Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that residents at the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Newport would need to be moved to a different facility in Boyd County due to a lack of staff.

The Newport facility is Kentucky's only all-girl juvenile detention facility and only began housing girls from all over the state in December following a string of violent incidents at state-run facilities last year.

When the all-girls facility was established a few months ago, Beshear said it was done to protect female juveniles housed in facilities shared with boys. But staffing issues have thrown a wrench in the original plan and the facility will only house some kids from Northern Kentucky while a majority of its residents will stay at a center about two-and-a-half hours away for about 90 days.

Boys housed at the Boyd Regional Juvenile Detention are being sent to a different location in Breathitt County during this period.

Republican State Senator from Boone County, John Schickel, says despite the staffing shortage, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the governor should have found a way to keep the facility operating.

From the archives: Newport facility to become Kentucky's first and only all-girl juvenile detention center

"Almost every organization right now has staffing shortages, but to just close something that's critical because you have a staffing shortage is unacceptable," Schickel told WVXU.

The senator says not having a fully operational facility has put an even bigger strain on the state's juvenile justice system which already had to transport boys from Northern Kentucky elsewhere. Schickel points out the added transportation element can make a difficult situation for families even harder and prevent the justice system from working effectively.

"Unfortunately, a lot of these kids come from low-income families where the caretakers don't have the resources, the parents don't have the resources to travel long distances to visit them," Schickel said. "When they make it inconvenient to put juveniles in detention, what happens is the juvenile that should be in detention, ends up not being in detention."

While the detention center in Newport works to hire more staff, organizations like Kentucky Youth Advocates are encouraging Kentucky's politicians to look for new solutions to the Commonwealth's ongoing issues in juvenile justice. Executive director of the organization Terry Brooks says staffing could be an issue for a while, so Kentucky should consider investing more in opportunities for youth within its state-run facilities to stop violence before it starts.

"Those core behavioral and mental health services, educational and career programming, they've got to be in place," Brooks said. "Whether the kid is right down the street from his or her home or they're three hours away, far less than ideal, there's still inside-the-facility programming that aren't options, they're imperative elements if you're going to turn those kids' lives around."

LISTEN: Could preventing child abuse lead to fewer youths in the juvenile justice system?

As the 2023 gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Beshear and State Attorney General and Republican nominee Daniel Cameron begins to pick up steam, Brooks hopes that the people of Kentucky push both candidates to find better solutions to the ongoing issues within Kentucky's juvenile detention centers.

Even though the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center faced staffing issues, a spokesman from the Kentucky Justice & Public Safety Cabinet told WVXU the center maintained its ability to separate violent youth offenders from the rest of the facility's population.

Copyright 2023 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

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Zack Carreon