Bill mandating detention, opening crime records of some juveniles has cleared both chambers

By: - March 14, 2023 5:34 pm

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, photographed earlier in the session, argued for leaving judges with the discretion to decide whether a juvenile charged with a crime should be detained. (Photo by LRC Public Information)

FRANKFORT — A Republican-backed bill that would reopen a juvenile detention center in Louisville and open some minors’ confidential records has now cleared both chambers of the Kentucky legislature.

House Bill 3 passed the House in late February and the Senate on Tuesday along party lines, 29-7.

Democrats argued unsuccessfully against the bill’s mandatory detention requirement for juveniles accused of violent offenses, arguing that the decision should remain at the discretion of a judge.

A floor amendment from Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, failed. It would have clarified that the district judge would make the decision on “whether to further detain the child or to release the child to the court-designated worker for the intake process.”

On the floor Tuesday, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, who presented the bill on the Senate side, called that amendment “unnecessary.”

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, said there was a “lot to like” in the bill, and “I believe that the heart of this bill is in the right place.”

However, she took issue with the mandatory pre-trial detention component.

“Sometimes our young people do need to be detained,” Chambers Armstrong said. “And currently, our law lets those closest to the facts in a particular case make that determination. Judges have discretion.”

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said the detention part of the bill “has to do with violent thugs.”

“The public demands,” he said, “that people be held accountable for violent crimes.”

Among the bill’s provisions:

  • Opening the records of juveniles who confess to or are found guilty of violent felonies and then closing the records after three years if the juvenile doesn’t have any other offenses in that time.
  • Allocating $17 million for renovation of a 40-bed Jefferson County detention center

  • Allocating $2 million for operational costs associated with the facility

  • Allocating $5.8 million for transportation costs

  • Allocating $9.6 million for Department of Juvenile Justice staffing needs.

  • Holding parents accountable for truancy.

  • Making sure violent children in detention are evaluated by a mental health provider.

  • Juveniles who are accused of a violent felony offense “shall” be held in a secure juvenile detention facility for up to 48 hours, pending a detention hearing.

Last week, the Senate passed two other juvenile justice bills aimed at boosting security and supporting salary increases in the justice system as well as having a third party audit the system.

The focus on juvenile justice this session comes after reports of heightened violence in Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers.

McKenna Horsley contributed to this report. 

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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.