A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gov. Beshear says more changes coming to state’s juvenile justice system, including pay raises, hiring

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Andy Beshear announced more changes are coming to the state’s juvenile justice system during his weekly Thursday afternoon press conference, including hefty pay raises due a shortage of employees in the department.

After a series of disturbances occurred in recent months, Beshear said the practice of housing juveniles in the facilities closest to their home would be coming to an end. Now, they are being sent to regional centers based on the crimes they are accused of committing, so truants will no longer be housed with those accused of more serious violent crimes. Females also have their own facility in Campbell County.

Gov. Andy Beshear (Photo by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today)

“The models they operated under were the same for more than 20 years,” Beshear said. “The lower-level offenses were the majority, ten-plus years ago. Now, the higher-level offenses are the majority of these individuals in our facilities.”

Among the new changes he announced Thursday, raising the starting salary of Department of Juvenile Justice workers at detention centers to $50,000 per year. “Youth workers at the detention centers will now be re-classified as correctional officers. We can make that raise under our current budget, in part due our vacancies.”

He said the department is short-staffed by 40%. “We will be asking the General Assembly for help moving forward, to reach the staffing levels that we have to meet, in the future.”

Beshear also announced hiring a director of security with experience in operating secure facilities. Former Department of Corrections warden Larry Chandler has 33 years of experience, according to Beshear, at six Kentucky prisons.

Other steps include:

• Improvements to the facilities for security enhancement.

• Making defensive equipment available for the first time to Juvenile Justice workers, along with appropriate training.

• Creating a compliance division to ensure best practices are being followed, in both high and low security facilities.

• Reorganizing the Department of Juvenile Justice to better manage current challenges.

• Creating a transportation unit, to reduce the burden on local law enforcement.

• More training and equipment to prevent dangerous items and drugs from entering facilities.

• Beginning the process of constructing up to two new state-of the-art facilities, to replace older ones.

“We will be working with the General Assembly,” he added, “to make these changes, request needed funding, and do so in this session.”

Beshear noted that once the changes are fully implemented, the detention facilities will be far safer for youth and staff.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment