Quick Takes

Givens files bill for independent review of Department of Juvenile Justice

By: - February 16, 2023 8:51 pm

(Photo by Getty Images)

FRANKFORT — Another recommendation from the juvenile justice legislative work group has been put into proposed legislation. 

Sen. David Givens

Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, filed Senate Bill 158 Thursday. The measure would direct the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts to contract a full performance review with a third party on the Department of Juvenile Justice’s pre-adjudication facilities and programs. A preliminary report would be due in October. 

Republican lawmakers in the work group said earlier this month that such a review was among their recommendations. The work group met without any public notice between the first and second parts of this legislative session. 

The bill calls for the audit results to be reported to the Legislative Research Commission, along with any audit materials. 

“An initial preliminary report of the results of the performance review shall be submitted to the Legislative Research Commission by October 15, 2023,” the bill reads. 

Among provisions in the bill, Department of Juvenile Justice employees could be interviewed without a supervisor, official or counsel of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. In the 2022-23 fiscal year, $500,000 from the General Fund would be appropriated to the Auditor’s office to fund the performance review. 

The review’s scope would include: 

  • “Interviews with front-line employees;
  • Review of adopted staffing procedures, and the compliance or noncompliance with the adopted procedures on-site; 
  • Review of incident reporting procedures and incident reports;
  • Receipt, review, and actions taken by the Department of Juvenile Justice related to complaints and concerns from employees;
  • Review of all monthly reports; and 
  • Review of all complaints and exit interview forms.”

Gov. Andy Beshear has told reporters that he welcomed an independent review if it was done in a non-political way and if the actions are implemented from the review.

Givens, the Senate president pro tempore, previously sponsored a resolution calling for a work group to make policy recommendations on Kentucky’s juvenile justice system. His latest bill is not the first to come out of the work group. Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee forwarded House Bill 3 from Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, which provides $8.9 million to renovate and reopen a 40-bed Jefferson County Youth Detention Center as well as making up to two days of detention mandatory for juveniles facing violent crime charges.

The calls for changes come after media reports of violent incidents in Kentucky juvenile justice facilities, such as a riot in Adair County in which a girl in state custody was allegedly sexually assaulted and attacks of two employees at the youth detention center in Warren County. 

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.