Justice secretary says juvenile detention reforms are a step, explains commissioner's resignation

04/04/2014 03:28 PM

The measure to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how Kentucky handles young offenders failed to go as far as Justice officials wanted but is a necessary first step, said Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown.

In an interview Thursday, Brown said he’s disappointed it did not end the ability for judges to send to detention centers minors who break age-related laws by being habitually truant or running away from home.

Much of the bill addresses education and health-related agencies, such as social workers, who are brought into the fold to intervene with at-risk youth. The goal is to keep young people out of detention centers except for the most violent or dangerous offenders, Brown said.

But the bill was perhaps a victim of circumstance. It didn’t get the attention that wider corrections reforms that focused on increase probation and parole did in 2011.

“The issue is that Kentucky is sending too many status offenders to detention for too long. That’s the national perspective, that’s a fact,” Brown said (at 2:15). “What happened in this time frame may have been that the bill itself did not get introduced until relatively late in a session like this where its dominated by the budget and other issues.”

With the reform bill expected to pass April 14, Juvenile Justice Commissioner Hassan Davis announced his resignation. He notified the staff Wednesday.

Brown said it probably signals the first of a wave of departures from the Beshear administration as the governor’s second and final term begins to wind down. He leaves office in December 2015.


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