Statement from Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
LOUISVILLE, KY – There has seldom been such a transformative process around a major policy arena than what we have seen around juvenile justice in the 2023 General Assembly. We have been critical as recently as a year ago about both the process and substance of juvenile justice legislation. Therefore, it is especially important that we commend the process and the results of cornerstone juvenile justice reform this year.
First, Representatives Kevin Bratcher and Jason Nemes are to be applauded for open minds and listening ears around House Bill 3, just as is Senator Danny Carroll around Senate Bill 162. They invited voices from every corner to be heard and they incorporated those divergent views into unifying pieces of legislation with the potential for profound impact on youth outcomes and community safety needs.
Secondly, this was truly a bicameral, bipartisan effort. Representatives Keturah Herron, Kim Moser, and Nima Kulknari as well as Senators David Givens, Gerald Neal, and Whitney Westerfield brought vital components and perspectives to the overall effort.
And finally, there was a laser focus on implementation. That focus means that time is going to be provided for the juvenile justice system to build capacity so when these changes do occur, implementation will be as effective as it is efficient. That’s whether that is around the 48-hour hold or much needed diversionary programming.
We recognize and honor the fact that everyone is not totally satisfied with every component of these bills. But a reform of this magnitude happens neither immediately nor seamlessly nor in a “one-off” manner. We believe that juvenile justice reform requires a multi-year and ongoing commitment from the General Assembly – whether that means continues tackling the minimum age of jurisdiction as a policy priority or ensuring sufficient budget components in the 2024 session. But at this moment, we need to all take a breath and celebrate the many, many positive aspects of this bundled legislation and commend the legislative leaders who made this happen.
That list of positives is candidly too voluminous to enumerate, but headline highlights include:
- More accountable data systems
- Better infrastructure for detention facilities themselves and increased supports for the staff in those centers
- A significantly deepened commitment to behavioral and mental health supports for the young people involved
- Imaginative partnerships with faith communities and nonprofits
- Establishing a system that both localizes detention yet wisely segregates youth by gender
No one believes that HB 3 and SB 162 means we are finished with juvenile justice reform. But what a pervasive first step as we continue to share a commitment to public safety and find ways to get kids back on the right track when they make a mistake. That commitment is good for the Commonwealth today and vital for Kentucky’s future.
Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and other bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
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 www.kyyouth.org.
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