Juvenile Justice Reforms Head To The House

Mar 20, 2014

Kentucky’s juvenile justice system could see sweeping changes under a measure passed by the state Senate.

Sen. John Schickel speaks in opposition to juvenile justice reforms.
Sen. John Schickel speaks in opposition to juvenile justice reforms.
Credit Josh James / WUKY

Thursday, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 200, which aims to lower the incarceration rate of children under 18 who are charged with “status” offenses, such as truancy or running away from home.

Bill sponsor Whitney Westerfield told the chamber the practice of housing nonviolent status offenders in detention centers alongside more serious criminals is counterproductive.

"Currently kids are having to go through a court process - cumbersome, costly, convoluted - to get access to services kids should get on the front end," he told the body.

The measure would instead seek to place more youths in community-based treatment centers, a move Westerfield says could save the state up to $24 million over five years.

But Sen. John Schickel argued the reforms expanding the role of case management take a cookie-cutter approach.

"I have to be a bit skeptical that there is one 'best practice' because these decisions should be made by parents," he said.

A bipartisan task force headed by Westerfield and House Judiciary chair John Tilley found that half of the state’s $102 million dollar Juvenile Justice Department budget goes toward detention facilities.