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Gov. Beshear Announces More Juvenile Justice System Changes to Improve Youth, Staff Safety

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 19, 2023) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear expanded upon recent steps taken by his administration to enhance youth and staff safety at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in response to violent incidents.

“In the last several months, our juvenile detention centers have seen violent outbursts. This has threatened the safety of staff and residents and resulted in substantial property damage to some of our centers," said Gov. Beshear. “Positive changes are required to meet today's challenges, and my administration has developed a solid, aggressive plan to improve the juvenile justice system. And we will continue to make the right decision – even when it is tough – to protect those in state custody and the staff who work in these essential roles."

At Gov. Beshear's direction, DJJ has implemented a number of steps to address the challenges in juvenile detention facilities.

The actions taken or planned include:

  • Opening the first female-only detention center in Campbell County in December.
  • For the first time in Kentucky, male juveniles are now separated by security level based on the severity of their offense.
  • Working to expand the DJJ transportation branch to help law enforcement.
  • Collaborating with the Kentucky State Police and Department of Corrections to enhance security in juvenile detention centers.
  • Provided compensation enhancements to help DJJ better recruit and retain staff, including providing a 10% and later an 8% raise, as well as providing an increased hourly and shift premium.
  • Now, Gov. Beshear is raising the starting salary of DJJ workers in detention centers to $50,000 annually and ensuring that youth workers in detention centers will be reclassified as correctional officers.
  • Making substantial improvements to the physical facilities designed to enhance security.
  • For the first time in Kentucky, making defensive equipment available to DJJ's youth workers who have had no equipment with which to defend themselves or youths when attacked.
  • Training DJJ staff concerning the use of defensive equipment and the identification of threat groups within detention centers.
  • Hiring a director of security who brings deep experience in operating secure facilities. That person is former Department of Corrections warden Larry Chandler as DJJ's Director of Security.

    “This is a big win for DJJ. Mr. Chandler brings 33 years of correctional experience, having served as warden of six Kentucky prisons," Gov. Beshear said. “Mr. Chandler is assisting DJJ by evaluating worker safety needs and facility security enhancements at all detention centers. He is visiting each facility in order to assess needed improvements."
  • Creating a Compliance Division to ensure that best practices are identified and followed.
  • Reorganizing the department by function to better manage the current challenges facing detention facilities.
  • Procuring equipment and training personnel to better prevent the introduction of contraband into the facilities.

    “The reorganization will better enable management to focus on the particular needs of detention centers, emphasizing safety and security," said DJJ Commissioner Vicki Reed. “This will increase security and reduce contraband being brought into the facilities."
  • Making or requesting a wide array of legislative, regulatory and policy changes designed to enhance the safety and security of DJJ facilities.
  • Rationalizing the detention footprint by initiating the process to construct two new, state-of-the-art facilities.

    “This is just the beginning of facility security enhancements that we propose," said Gov. Beshear. “DJJ should build two new state-of-the-art detention centers to serve the needs of youth in our custody. We plan to present these requests to the General Assembly during this session as they are vital to protecting our at-risk youth and assisting our law enforcement officers."

The Governor and Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey said robust and effective changes to the juvenile justice system require policy, budgetary and legislative action. Once fully implemented, DJJ detention facilities will be far safer for youth and staff.

“Positive change is underway. A safer environment will foster the vital work of enhancing the future of Kentucky youths in DJJ care," Secretary Harvey said. “I hope the Kentucky General Assembly and the courts will collaborate with the administration so that DJJ can obtain the resources and legislative action necessary to complete these historic improvements."