Proposed 'huge overhaul' of juvenile justice system will keep status offenders out of court

02/13/2014 09:58 AM

The first step to reforming Kentucky’s juvenile justice system will be to set up a system that keeps status offenders — who get in trouble for skipping school or running away from home — out of court and detention centers, said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville.

Westerfield, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and Rep. John Tilley, the Democratic House Judiciary Committee chairman, led a task force that has been working for months on a bill to improve the system for young offenders.

They received the first draft of the bill Tuesday night, and Westerfield told Pure Politics on Wednesday that it would increase oversight of the system and drastically alter how Kentucky handle status offenders, minors who end up in the system for doing things that are only against the law because they’re under 18.

“It is a huge overhaul of the status offender system. Status offenders almost certainly won’t end up in court,” Westerfield said.

Currently, judges in some counties sentence status offenders to detention centers, where they’re mixed in with young people who have committed serious crimes.

Westerfield said that it was “astounding” that the average amount of time a young person who ran away from home spends in a detention center is within a month of the average detention for a juvenile convicted of a felon.

Find out how the bill would change the system at 3:15 of political reporter Nick Storm’s interview with Westerfield:


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