AP NEWS

Council considers disbanding youth detention services

June 22, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s top justice official says the state is ready to take charge of Jefferson County juveniles charged with crimes if local officials decide to stop running Louisville Metro Youth Detention Services.

State Justice Secretary John Tilley told news outlets that the state can’t operate a local detention center. Youths being held on charges instead of being released pending trial would likely be transferred to one of six regional juvenile detention centers elsewhere in Kentucky, he said.

“We simply cannot operate the facility,” Tilley told the Courier Journal in an interview. “We would be forced to find placement for Louisville youths outside the Greater Louisville area. We have no choice.”

Tilley’s comments come as Louisville Metro Council is considering whether to disband its youth detention services and hand over the job to the state Juvenile Justice Department as a cost-savings measure.

The council estimates it can save about $2.4 million in six months beginning Jan. 1 by shifting youth detention services to the state.

The changes caught some by surprise when they surfaced as a recommendation Thursday from the council’s budget committee. The full council will consider the budget on Tuesday.

Several council members said it is a tough decision but cited the city’s budget pressures.

“It’s a big bucket of money in our budget,” said council President David James. “The state isn’t reimbursing us anywhere close to what it costs. We’re at a time when we’re in desperate need of tax dollars, but it was a really hard decision.”

Two Jefferson County district judges who oversee juvenile court said they are concerned about the potential loss of the local center, especially if youths held in detention are shipped to other counties.

“They have a lot of services here that are really not available at state-run juvenile detention centers,” said Judge David Bowles. “To that extent, our youth would lose some services.”

Judge Eric Haner said he, too, has doubts, especially about holding detained youths far from home.

“I don’t think it’s a great idea for the community,” he said. “I think it would be disservice to the community not to have a juvenile detention center here in Jefferson County.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said his organization opposes sending detained youths too far from home.

“We certainly would not want to see kids shipped to northern Kentucky and western Kentucky,” Brooks said.

But he said a transition to state oversight might provide more opportunities to keep youths out of detention with alternatives for supervision in the community.

The state subsidizes Jefferson County’s costs, paying $94 per day for youths in detention and $26 a day for those on home incarceration. The state expects to pay about $2 million in those expenses in the fiscal year that ends June 30, according to the justice cabinet.

Total youth detention services are projected to cost Metro Government about $9.7 million next year.

On Friday, 43 youths were being held at the detention center and another 70 were under supervision outside the center.

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