Andrea Bennett

Today’s passage of SB 200 by the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the important process of fundamental reform of juvenile justice in the Commonwealth with changes that will mean better outcomes for kids and for public safety.

Specifically, this bill emphasizes investing limited state dollars in community-based programs that are more effective at getting youth back on track. It also makes great strides towards reserving costly incarceration and other placements out of home for youth with the most serious offenses. A multi-disciplinary team is also being established to review cases and assist in addressing core issues contributing to youth behavior.

SB 200 represents substantial progress, and we commend Senator Westerfield and Representative Tilley for their leadership and ethical commitment to Kentucky’s kids. It also is a reminder that key groups remain missing in action when it comes to finding solutions that work best for kids. The K-12 establishment has continued to cling to antiquated means of dealing with youth who miss school – namely insisting that the threat of incarceration be used. We know that locking up kids for behaviors that would not be considered crimes if they were adults (known as status offenses) doesn’t work, and it’s the most expensive option. It’s time for schools to become a part of the solution.

Despite the gap in addressing locking up youth for status offenses, SB 200 moves Kentucky in the right direction with a juvenile justice system that is better for kids, better for the state budget and better for public safety.