LaShana M. Harris, a native of Danville, Kentucky, is a graduate of the Spelman College and the University of Kentucky, College of Law. Upon graduating from law school, LaShana began her career as the Executive Director of a non-profit child advocacy and mental health service provider for victims of child abuse and child sexual abuse. While in this leadership position she grew the organization into one of Kentucky's premier voices for child victims.
LaShana has served state government for over 19 years in various leadership positions.
LaShana was appointed as the Executive Director of Regulated Child Care in the Office of Inspector General position. As the leader of this arm of government, she was responsible for the regulatory compliance of over 3500 licensed agencies throughout the Commonwealth and under her leadership, Kentucky's rankings in regulated child care went from 49th in the country to 17th. In addition, LaShana conceptualized and worked with the Information Technology Department to develop a state of the art comprehensive child care licensing system for the state of Kentucky.
In 2010, LaShana was asked to serve government on a national level and worked on behalf of Secretary Gates in the Department of Defense to assist in the national effort to encourage southern state to make civilian child care standards compatible with Department of Defense military operated child care standards.
In 2011, LaShana was appointed Assistant Director of Program Services within the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) where she oversaw all the statutory and regulatory processes, developed policies and procedures, educational programming, the ACA quality assurance program, the federal Child Nutrition Program and became the Agency's Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Compliance Officer, and one of the chief advisors to the Commissioner's Office.
As the PREA Compliance Officer, LaShana spearheaded the PREA integration of the federal standards within all thirty (30) juvenile justice detention and residential facilities. As a result, Kentucky DJJ leadership was invited to Washington to speak with the U.S. Commission on PREA regarding Kentucky's efforts to prevent sexual misconduct within facilities. Furthermore, LaShana was instrumental in the creation of first validated PREA vulnerability assessment for youth within the juvenile justice system in the country. The Victimization and Sexual/Physical Aggression (the VSPA) screener ascertains the vulnerability as well as the aggression of youth in juvenile confinement settings. She was also instrumental in securing over a million dollars in funding to integrate PREA with in DJJ. It was at this point that Kentucky became a leading voice and leader for juvenile justice systems in the country.
LaShana has developed many valuable partnerships for the DJJ. DJJ, under her leadership as the Assistant Director, partnered with the University of Kentucky Center for Child Trauma as well as the Duke/UCLA Center for Child Traumatic Stress to integrate and train staff on trauma and trauma informed care practices. In addition, LaShana worked with The Trauma Center in Boston, Massachusetts and Yoga East in Louisville, Kentucky to create a Trauma Sensitive Yoga Program within KYDJJ.
LaShana has propelled the DJJ to forefront of PREA and Trauma work. She conceptualized and built the framework infrastructures and operational practices for both programs within the agency. In 2018, for her extensive work in juvenile justice, LaShana became a fellow in the Youth in Custody Executive Certificate Program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Governor Andy Beshear appointed LaShana as the Commissioner of the DJJ. She is the 1st African American woman in the history of Kentucky to serve as Commissioner of the agency.
In addition to government work, LaShana is an award winning patented inventor. In 2016, she won the prestigious VOGT award for scientific inventors. Out of all the experiences and successes that she has had, one of the experiences that she value the most is teaching English and French teacher in a remote village in Kerr Momar Sarr, Senegal.