Judge's program aims to save money ... and teens from getting locked up

12/04/2012 05:44 PM

If crime doesn’t pay, neither does locking up teenagers for what are called status offenses.

Kentucky is losing money in the short- and long-term with its policy of allowing judges to sentence teens to detention centers for offenses that are only a crime because of the offender’s age, such as underage drinking or smoking or habitually skipping school.

One Kentucky judge, Campbell County District Judge Karen Thomas, started a program that would link troubled teens with counseling to try to address root causes of troubles — rather than just sending them to a juvenile detention facility.

Senior correspondent Don Weber reported that Thomas wants to use the savings from her approach to fund that counseling and treatment. Watch:

According to the research — and Kentucky advocates and some judges — sending non-violent but troubled teens to a detention center isn’t even an effective strategy. (See Part 1 of the report on status offenders.)

Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said at a Kentucky Youth Advocates’ forum in October that moving away from sentencing status offenders to detention centers requires a philosophical shift within the judicial system.

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics with Ryan Alessi airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.


  • Mark Shouse wrote on December 10, 2012 07:03 PM :

    I am a prosecutor in Hardin County and couldn’t disagree with the judge more about juvenile status offenders. Our courts use limited detention in status cases and according to our schools, there is apporximately a 95% chance that the status offenders will not be back. The people that say not putting status offenders in detention will save money do not take into account that most of those will end up in the Cabinet’s custody, costing the same amount of money, if not more.

    When we go to court in my county, we all sort out which avenue to take, detention or Cabinet, and in some instances utilize both. The failure here is the lack of attention to the overall family dynamic. Sometimes the problems are with the family overall, and sometimes it is primarily with the offender. Letting status offenders know that they cannot go to detention in any instance only takes way a useful tool when applied properly.

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