Mara Powell

Statement from Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

LOUISVILLE, KY – House Bill 3 undoubtedly is going to move through the House with the speed of a missile. Its impact? Depending on its final form, it carries the ambiguity of that Chinese spy balloon.

There is no question that HB 3 is a much-improved approach to juvenile justice than we heard discussed during the 2022 legislative session. And we especially appreciate the listening posture of key leaders on this issue like Representatives Bratcher and Nemes. I am especially appreciative, for example, of changes around truancy and a more informed commitment to tackling that tough issue.

With that said and affirming the improvements of the current proposal, there are still opportunities to make it an even stronger approach to protecting public safety and getting kids back on track after they have made a mistake. For instance, we believe that continuing to give judges discretion regarding youth detention rather than making the course of action to be a legislative mandate – which is expensive, ineffective, and, in fact, increases the likelihood of recidivism. Other improvements can come in areas such as removing or significantly narrowing to the most severe offenses when it comes to the unsealing of court records and expanding the scope of evidence-based behavioral treatment available to youth in detention.

The other feature of HB 3 that bears note is around the juvenile detention crisis in Jefferson County. That situation absolutely demands immediate attention, but it is imperative to note that improved and expanded community services must accompany improved facilities. Whether explicitly in Jefferson County or throughout the state detention system, we cannot expand the number of beds for detainees on one hand and fail to significantly expand the scope and quality of behavioral and mental health supports, educational and career services, family connectivity, and a range of other structures. We look forward to further policy recommendations put forth by the juvenile justice work group mentioned by Representative Bratcher today and echo the push of Representatives Herron, Kulknari, and Moser for an upstream, preventive focus on programming.

Finally, we believe the major move ahead idea that should be incorporated into this legislation is establishing a minimum age of accountability. Some 24 states – including Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, and Texas – have seen the value in this developmentally appropriate reform. Keeping six-year-olds out of the courts and cells makes fiscal sense, justice sense, and common sense. We can improve public safety and support kids with this provision.

Again, we commend the work of the House Judiciary Committee for the direction this effort is taking and would encourage House leadership as well as its Senate colleagues to incorporate several seemingly minor but important tweaks as this moves ahead.

Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and 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