Mara Powell

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

LOUISVILLE, KY – Way to go, David Givens! As emotions and rhetoric heat up around juvenile justice, Senator Givens has architected a thoughtful and reflective approach to address what is, indeed, a crisis in the Commonwealth.

The legislative working group – a step closer to being established with today’s Senate vote on Senate Concurrent Resolution 31 – will assess a need for the state to operate a Louisville juvenile detention facility, develop policy to ensure the safety of staff and juveniles in facilities, provide Department of Juvenile Justice employees trauma support, provide an independent ombudsman to hear grievances, among other charges. The House must now offer its concurrence to ensure this “watchdog” group can be established in the immediate.

This resolution offers real hope to strengthen public safety and to put kids back on the right track. I am hopeful that group will know that we cannot be content with incremental improvements, but instead must embrace a comprehensive and systemic revamping of juvenile justice as a system. That means prevention, community-based interventions, and quality detention options when necessary.

Since the preponderance of publicity is around juvenile detention, that is sure to be a focus as it should be. The first step must be a consensus based on research around the purpose of detention. It is not a band-aid for a kid who misses school, but a strategy for serious offenders. And for detention to do the rehabilitative work called for, we are going to have to re-design the workforce, attend to facilities, and, most importantly, re-invent programming around emotional health and educational/career supports.

The easy path is a quick fix. But the smart path is a comprehensive reform of the system as a whole. Senator Givens’ leadership and passion gives us the potential to achieve that kind of reform. We thank Senators Givens and Julie Raque Adams for their efforts with SCR 31 and the Senate for its bipartisan support today. We call on the House to concur this resolution when they gavel back into for Part 2 of the 2023 legislative session in February.


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