New Juvenile Justice Steps Announced

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) announced additional changes to address youth and staff safety concerns at Kentucky facilities. Thursday’s adjustments follow steps Governor Andy Beshear announced last month regarding how the state houses juvenile offenders. That plan made several changes, including separating offenders by age, sex, and type of charge.

The governor told reporters at an afternoon news conference that the department is now working on expanding its transportation branch to help local law enforcement. Kentucky instituted a pay raise for DJJ staff, including 10% now and 8% later. Staff also received increased hourly and shift premiums. The state says the starting salary for detention center workers is now $50,000 a year. Additionally, youth detention center workers are now classified as correctional officers.

Former Department of Corrections Warden Larry Chandler will now serve as DJJ’s Director of Security. “Mr. Chandler is assisting DJJ by evaluating worker safety needs and facility security enhancements at all detention centers,” Beshear said. “He is visiting each facility in order to assess needed improvements.”

The department will also seek funding from the legislature for two new youth detention centers, and the state plans to institute enhanced security measures at existing facilities.

Republican legislators have been strongly critical of the department’s lack of action after recent violent outbursts in juvenile detention centers. The governor said the incidents have “threatened the safety of staff and residents.” Beshear insisted the administration had developed “a solid, aggressive plan to improve the juvenile justice system.” Several legislators have stated that the changes have come too late.