Worked with key members of the Department of Juvenile Justice, the courts and attorneys for children to re-establish data points on juvenile justice in our KIDS COUNT project.
Discovered that Kentucky locked up kids for minor things at one of the highest rates in the nation. This was the least effective and most expensive option for our state.
Prepared educational materials on the incarceration of youth charged with status offenses, which are behaviors that would not be considered crimes if the person was an adult, like running away and skipping school.
We worked with key stakeholders to identify practices resulting in harmful outcomes for kids.
The complicated nature of the juvenile justice system with the many stakeholders involved made tackling this issue challenging.
Schools, judges, and state agencies were at odds with how to change Kentucky’s response to status offenses while still achieving the goals of getting youth back on track.
Simplifying our message for the media and legislators helped increase support.
Deputy Chief Justice Noble led an effort to create uniform Family Court Rules of Practice and Procedure, which addressed status offense cases among other family court issues.
We promoted recommendations for reforming juvenile justice practices.
Offered proven solutions that would increase public safety and save taxpayer money.
One recommendation included upholding the existing law that required schools to show they attempted to work with the child on his/her behavior before referring the child to the court system.
In the 2011 General Assembly session, we gained traction on HB 123 to limit putting kids in jail for status offenses. HB 123 passed the House with a strong vote but did not move forward in the Senate.
The Legislature formed a Task Force to study Kentucky’s juvenile justice system.
The Unified Juvenile Code Task Force met for 2 years. Senator Whitney Westerfield and Representative John Tilley Co-chaired the second year of the Task Force.
The state brought in the research group Pew Charitable Trusts as a national expert. Pew performed a deeper investigation and analysis of Kentucky’s juvenile justice practices and involved multiple stakeholders to develop consensual recommendations for reform.
The Task Force, comprised of educators, judges, attorneys, social workers, legislators, and other stakeholders agreed on core concepts of reform.
With this momentum, we moved in to the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly.
The Legislature drafted a strong juvenile justice reform bill.
To ensure successful passage of the bill, Senator Westerfield and Representative Tilley worked with several stakeholders on compromises in the bill language.
Weeks of negotiation occurred to come to agreement.
Late in the session with agreements reached, SB 200 moved through the legislative process.
The bill passed in April 2014! It was a hard fought victory but major reforms to the juvenile justice system are now underway.
“After years of collaboration and study, we've finally taken a great step toward improving the justice system for Kentucky's children. Senate Bill 200 has put in place a way to no longer simply punish problem behavior, but to identify and tackle the root causes of that behavior, involve the family more and increase accountability, all while achieving better outcomes at less cost to taxpayers.”
Senator Whitney Westerfield, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair