Incidents at juvenile detention facilities continue across the state, when will it stop?

Most recent incident happening at Warren Juvenile Detention Center, less than a week after the one on Jan. 23

KENTUCKY (WTVQ) — Last week, we heard from both Secretary Kerry Harvey, of the Justice and Safety Cabinet and Governor Andy Beshear on proposed changes to the juvenile detention system, saying it will take time.

Senator Whitney Westerfield also spoke out saying certain issues aren’t being tackled at all, but since then, there have been at least two more attacks on workers at juvenile detention centers.
So, when will it stop?

Incidents at juvenile facilities have become more frequent than ever in Kentucky, and have also become more violent than ever. One thing many state officials have stressed is these facilities were built decades ago and what worked back then, is not working these days.

“It’s clearly a problem that’s persisted, and they were right, in their defense, it’s been an issue for years and years. It takes a tragedy, it’s sad that it takes a tragedy before they finally make it a serious priority,” said Senator Whitney Westerfield, back on December 15, 2022 after the interim joint committee meeting for the judiciary.

Senator Westerfield was referring to the end of last year, we told you about various incidents at facilities, one of the most significant ones, was the riot at the Adair County Juvenile Detention Center where a teenage girl was allegedly violently sexually assaulted.
The incident highlighted issues for state officials that have continued to grow over the years.

Recently, Governor Andy Beshear announced a list of proposed changes to the system, changes that some say are not enough.

“You can’t just fix this part. When morale is a problem across the board, we talked about this at the December 15, judiciary committee meeting, one of the problems is departmental morale, department wide,” added Sen. Westerfield, back on January 20th, of this year.

“So when they’ve been subjected to attack by what are sometimes violent use, they really have very little in the way of defensive mechanisms, we’re changing that. We are also providing much better training for our youth workers now,” also said Sec. Harvey, last week when we asked about the proposed changes to the system.

But ever since the changes were announced, there have been two attacks at the Warren Juvenile Detention Center, happening less than a week from each other.
The most recent attack to youth workers at the facility happening on Saturday, when three teens attacked a worker and locked themselves in an office. This comes days after we spoke with the Governor and asked if he believed the proposed changes would’ve helped.

“But let’s never try to rationalize when one human being commits an incredibly violent act against another. And let’s make sure we put responsibility on an offender that attacks either staff or another youth,” added the Governor, on January 26th.

The governor also saying that the issues to tackle are not black and white, given that the juvenile system is one that adds legal challenges when it comes to treating juveniles.

“We’ve had youth that are, are so mentally ill, that they certainly need to be in a psychiatric type hospital. But we’ve attempted to place one individual eight, nine times and has actually gone to two or three assaulted staff. And they said no. And thus, come back to our facility because a judge ordered us now nobody’s in these facilities without a court order,” also said Gov. Beshear, on January 26th.

Some of the recent changes announced include the first woman juvenile detention facility, men are now separated by security level, based on the severity of the crime, raising pay to recruit and retain workers, and hiring a new director of security among other things.

There will be another meeting with the interim committee for the judiciary in the coming weeks.

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