Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
Louisville, KY – The axiom that “necessity is the mother of invention” rings true in the case of youth detention in Louisville. Given the Mayor and Metro Council’s decision to close the locally operated detention center, the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet working with local nonprofit leaders is moving ahead on what is an imaginative and kid-centric approach to youth justice.
Along with ensuring that Louisville youth now begin to receive the same due process protocols immediately after interaction with law enforcement as young people in the other 119 counties, I am especially energized by the Justice Cabinet’s move toward a broad spectrum of services that focuses on early intervention, transitional supports, and after release care rather than merely making this about how to lock up kids.
Another especially positive element in today’s announcement is around the engagement of local nonprofits. The rich array of nonprofits in Louisville have the capacity and commitment to deliver innovative initiatives, including the creation of a Jefferson County Youth Development Center, and programming around mentoring, academic instruction, and family-based counseling.
Today’s move by the Justice Cabinet means that we are going to begin to look at the long-term potential of these young people rather than simply figuring a way to incarcerate.
Issues still remain. Even if Louisville youth must be transported to communities outside of Jefferson County, we must ensure that the young people’s family and attorneys have authentic contact and connection. I am pleased to hear Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Denver Butler’s emphasis placed on keeping kids close to home.
Neither the Justice Cabinet nor this community can ignore the clear issue of race when it comes to youth justice. Practices that address cultural competency are critical in every juvenile facility and the racial disproportionality that afflicts the system should be a moral affront to us all.
From a potential crisis has arisen a positive resolution. Young people who make a mistake will have a better trajectory to a better future moving forward as this function is transitioned to state control. Of that, I have no doubt.