Kentucky juvenile justice commissioner announces resignation after two troubled years
The commissioner of Kentucky’s troubled Department of Juvenile Justice will resign at the end of the year. Vicki Reed helmed the agency amid a series of violent incidents including assaults, rape, riots and a brief escape.
Reed’s resignation means Kentucky will have to hire its sixth Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner since 2018.
Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed the resignation, which will be effective Jan. 1, at a news conference Thursday.
Beshear said Reed dealt with “preexisting challenges” and started implementing reforms.
“I know it hasn’t been easy for Vicki Reed to push through but every day she’s shown up and tried to do her best and I’m grateful,” he said.
Hired in 2021, Reed is the fifth Department of Juvenile Justice commissioner since 2018. She was appointed to the position after the previous commissioner, LaShana Harris, was fired after alleged harassment and bullying.
It’s common for state agency heads to transition to new jobs at the start of a new term and Reed’s boss, Beshear, was just reelected. But the move comes after several Republican lawmakers called for her resignation earlier this year amid numerous scandals in the agency.
In a statement, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey said Reed implemented “long overdue positive changes in the department.”
“Our youth and staff were fortunate to have her leadership and we appreciate her service to the commonwealth. Under Commissioner Reed’s leadership, our juvenile facilities are safer now than ever before. We wish her the best of luck in her retirement,” Harvey wrote.
Earlier this year the Republican-led legislature passed reforms requiring higher pay for security officers in juvenile detention centers, improving mental health treatment for incarcerated youth and setting aside money to refurbish and reopen a facility in Jefferson County, which will take more time and money than initially predicted.
On Thursday, Beshear said the reforms have provided a “good roadmap” for the department.
“I believe that if we continue to work the plan in coordination with the General Assembly that we are already in a better place and we’re getting to a better place,” he said.