A package of reforms for the state’s juvenile justice system appears poised to become law.
Senate Bill 200 passed the Kentucky House Thursday.
Supporters argue the bill’s effect is twofold: keeping young “status” offenders such as habitual truants out of the court system and saving money. Kentucky pays an estimated $100,000 to house a single status offender in a detention facility for a year.
Lexington Rep. Susan Westrom told her colleagues Thursday that steering troubled youth into community-based treatment programs instead is a smart investment.
"It's a lot cheaper to serve the families to make sure they have what they need so their child can succeed. And it is even more important that we have a safety net for these children so they don't end up going to a detention facility," she said.
Bill sponsors put the potential savings at $25 million over the next few years. But opponents say the bill could have an unintended cost – sending a message to young offenders that the state is soft on crime.
If passed, the changes would go into effect in 2015.