March 20th UPDATE: SB 200 passed the Kentucky Senate on March 20  – two days after we posted this blog. It now moves to the Kentucky House for consideration. We are excited about the progress of this bill for Kentucky kids and families. Read our full statement about the passage of SB 200 in the Senate here. 

A bill has started moving through the legislative process to reform juvenile justice in meaningful ways for kids, families and communities. SB 200, filed by Senator Whitney Westerfield, would put into law many of the recommendations of the Kentucky Unified Juvenile Code Task Force, which was co-chaired by Senator Westerfield and Representative John Tilley. The bill would improve outcomes for children, while protecting public safety and using taxpayer dollars more wisely than Kentucky currently does.

The bill would reserve the most expensive options – like incarceration at $100,000 per year per child – for serious offenses. Limitations would be put in to place for out-of-home placement for youth involved with the juvenile justice system for minor offenses and status offenses, which are behaviors like skipping school and running away from home. Though the bill comes up short on ending the use of incarceration for status offenses, the pre-court interventions are strengthened to address youth and family issues outside of court if possible.

A report released today by the conservative think tank, Texas Public Policy Foundation, further cements the case that we need serious reforms on how Kentucky addresses status offenses. The report, Kids Doing Time for What’s Not a Crime: The Over-Incarceration of Status Offenders, calls for several reforms that SB 200 captures – namely, focusing on the family and services to address youth behavior issues and reinvesting savings from reducing incarceration to support proven approaches. The report also calls for strong limits on secure detention, and while SB 200 still allows secure detention, efforts to address underlying issues early in the process will likely reduce the number of youth incarcerated.

There are a couple ways you can help make a difference for Kentucky kids. First, ask your Senator to support SB 200 because it will help Kentucky voters by protecting public safety, improving outcomes for children and families, and at the same time saving valuable taxpayer dollars. Click here for information on how to contact your legislator with this ask.

Second, we are joining Texas Public Policy Foundation for a tweetchat on the report this Thursday, March 20th at 11am eastern. If you are on Twitter join @KYYouth and @TPPF using the hashtag #jjstatus.

If you are new to twitter or to tweet chats, click on the links below to help you learn what a tweet chat is and how you can participate: