Extending protections to dating partners, juvenile justice reforms top priorities, Rep. Tilley says

12/16/2013 09:40 AM

The 2014 General Assembly must pass bills to extend domestic violence protections to Kentuckians in dating relationships and change how the juvenile justice system punishes status offenders, the House judiciary chairman said.

Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, said a task force that’s looking into reforms to the juvenile justice system is getting close to making its recommendations for a bill to change the system. One of the key recommendations will address how the system handles status offenders, who are minors that got into the justice system for problems like habitual truancy that aren’t crimes. In some counties, juveniles end up getting sentenced to detention centers, which advocates say only put them on the wrong path.

“I think you could see the elimination of status offenses, potentially, or a different system that relates to them,” Tilley told Pure Politics last week (5:20 of the interview).

A Juvenile Justice Task Force, headed up by Tilley and Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, has received help from the MacArthur Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to craft the package of reforms.

“Our schools would tell you, ‘… We don’t want the system detaining status offenders.’ But we don’t have any other intermediate sanction or any middle ground there,” Tilley said.

In the past several sessions, some of the biggest bills that have passed have been in the criminal justice arena. In 2011, the General Assembly passed a sweeping corrections reform that shifted a focus to probation and parole in order to stem a growing and increasingly expensive prison population. In addition, lawmakers passed bills to crack down on prescription pill mills and make it more difficult for methamphetamine makers to get key ingredients found in over-the-counter cold medicine.

In 2014, Tilley also expects a focus on tightening penalties for heroin dealing (6:30) of the interview.

And Tilley told Pure Politics he will again try to lobby senators to pass his bill that would extend domestic violence protections to dating partners.

Tilley sat down for an interview Thursday after speaking at the Ending Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence conference at Lexington’s Marriott Griffin Gate resort.

Last month, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said at a legislative Kentucky Hospital Association meeting that the system already has a way to go after someone who is being abusive in a dating relationship. But Tilley said the system needs to offer swifter protections for potential victims.

“The criminal justice system is slow. And it cannot offer that immediate protection, which actually is the key element in any protective order situation,” Tilley said.

(CORRECTION — An earlier edition of the story listed the wrong co-chairman of the juvenile justice task force. Westerfield is co-chairing the group with Tilley this year. Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine served as co-chairman in 2012.)

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