An Open Letter to President James and Metro Council:

That sound? It’s the flushing of millions of dollars towards an idea that will, in many ways, have the exact opposite effect as intended.

Let me be clear. I do not doubt the commitment of EVERY Metro Council member when it comes to supporting young people and making our community safe. But the notion of a Youth Transfer Center is a wrong-headed if well-intended approach.

First, the narrative of kids sitting in the back of patrol cars for hours is simply not accurate as a broad pattern of what is happening. And yes, law enforcement complying with best practice and due process for juveniles can be cumbersome. And inefficient. And test adults’ patience. But I guess I just think the future of a youth is worth some inconvenience for an adult. And that’s the real issue at play here.

Here’s the bottom line: the Youth Transfer Center will grease the pipeline for kids sliding into detention, a practice that serves neither young people nor public safety. The Youth Transfer Center will inevitably exacerbate the already unacceptable levels of racial disparity in the juvenile justice system. The Youth Transfer Center – because of its unintended consequences – will accelerate the dysfunctions we already face in juvenile justice ranging from recidivism to literally creating a feeder system towards more serious crime.

Let me reiterate. I believe you as individuals and as a body want to do right by kids. The Youth Transfer Center is the antithesis of doing right by kids.

And oh, what potential those millions of dollars have. Create a Youth DEVELOPMENT Center. Deepen preventative services. Strengthen mental and behavioral supports for youth and families. Infuse restorative justice and residency structures throughout our community.

As Executive Director of Kentucky Youth Advocates and as a grandfather of eight young ‘uns growing up in Louisville, I ask you to delay this decision. And then take the courageous step to “go fast to go slow” for kids. We need research-based and imaginative solutions, not simple knee-jerk reactions to the complex and long-standing crises we face around public safety and the future of our young people.

Dr. Terry I. Brooks
Executive Director
Kentucky Youth Advocates

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Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at kyyouth.org.