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Beshear-Coleman Administration Responds to Department of Justice Announcement

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 15, 2024) – In response to today’s U.S. Department of Justice announcement regarding the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, Gov. Andy Beshear and Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Keith Jackson issued statements. 

“Over the past four years, the administration has enacted the most extensive reforms to the Department of Juvenile Justice since its inception. These reforms include separating males and females into different facilities, separating those accused of significant crimes from status and lower-level offenders, providing significant raises to boost staffing and upgrading security. We have also required more training, created a compliance branch to monitor all facilities and have hired more psychologists, social workers and security experts,” said Gov. Beshear. “While the General Assembly has provided some help, it recently failed to fund two needed detention facilities, as well as a specialized residence for juveniles with extensive mental illness. Funding was also denied for additional safety improvements. The Department of Juvenile Justice will cooperate with the Department of Justice while also strongly advocating for the safety of its staff.”  

“Every juvenile placed in the custody of the state deserves to be safe. We have made progress on the security of our juvenile facilities; we have trained our personnel, protected juveniles and staff against violent attacks and taken corrective action against employee misconduct,” said Secretary Jackson. “We look forward to being able to talk to the Department of Justice, because as of today, no members of our leadership have been interviewed, and we have not had the opportunity to discuss any incident, policy or issue with the Department of Justice.”

The Beshear-Coleman administration has enacted the most significant reforms since the creation of the juvenile justice system, from opening the first female-only detention center, classifying male juveniles by security level and providing a more-than-$20,000 salary increase to security personnel – which increased frontline correctional officers by 63% – to reorganizing the department by function to better manage the current challenges facing detention facilities.  

To comply with state statutes, this past legislative session, the Governor called for critical funding to support the department, including funding a facility to provide residential psychiatric treatment for juveniles who need it and would otherwise be placed in detention, but the request was not approved by the General Assembly.  

For a full list of steps taken by the Beshear administration to reform the Department of Juvenile Justice, click here.