House panel approves juvenile justice bill

March 26, 2014 | | Comments 0

By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – The House Judiciary Committee signed off on a bill Wednesday to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system with the aim of jailing fewer children.

Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would reduce the incarceration of children younger than 18 charged with noncriminal “status” offenses, such as skipping school or running away from home.

Some judges now sentence such nonviolent offenders to detention centers, where they are housed with young people who have committed serious crimes. In 2010, for example, 1,541 youths were locked up in Kentucky for status offenses.

SB 200 could save the state as much as $24 million over five years by placing more juveniles in community-based treatment instead of putting them in detention centers, Westerfield said.

The state could reinvest the savings to expand community-based programs for status offenders, he said.

Also, the bill would require increased data collection on juvenile offenders and a state system to track juvenile recidivism rates. An oversight council would be formed to manage implementation of the bill.

The committee vote to send the measure to the full House was 17 in favor with no opposition. Four members cast a “pass” vote.

Filed Under: KY General Assembly

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