Commonwealth’s New Regional Juvenile Detention Center Open in Jefferson County

LOUISVILLE, Ky. –  As of January 1, 2020, The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is now responsible for youth detainment in Jefferson County, as it is already for all other counties in Kentucky. Since Louisville Metro Government closed its juvenile detention facility due to budget cuts, a portion of the Louisville Day Treatment Center building, located at the state’s Audubon Campus, has been renovated to house detention services in Jefferson County. Now, young people detained in Jefferson County are brought there.

According to a press release by DJJ, “the existing day treatment programming will continue with detention services being included as an additional service to the youth of Jefferson County.”

The new Jefferson Regional Juvenile Detention Center (JRJDC) is a 16-bed facility.

The memorandum of the agreement provided by DJJ states, “While the Commonwealth retains discretion to determine the Detention Center that a Jefferson County youth will be placed at, the Commonwealth will make reasonable efforts to prioritize placement of Jefferson County youth at the Jefferson Region Juvenile Detention Center.”

The now-closed Youth Detention Services in Louisville was averaging 40 young people detained until late December 2019, when the state started moving some of its facilities, according to Louisville Metro Government.

The ACLU Kentucky has followed the developments on the closure since it was first announced last summer.

 “While 16 beds is a positive step, we think a more reasonable solution would have been to just build out the Audubon facility, enough to handle the full capacity,” said Aaron Tucek, a legal fellow at ACLU Kentucky.

ACLU Kentucky is concerned about how far away the overflow of young detainees will be sent since there are 16 beds.

“We believe that the plan proposed raises issues and concerns about access to counsel, the ability of families to have access to their children, the due process and equal protection rights of children from Jefferson County. And so we have very significant concerns about how this process is played out,” Tucek told Spectrum News 1.

In response, the DJJ’s spokesperson, Lisa Lamb, said via email to Spectrum News 1, “The launch of the new detention facility is a first step. DJJ is committed to working with all stakeholders to best serve the interests of the youth involved and their families. First and foremost, DJJ is working to expand alternatives to detention to reduce the number of Jefferson County youth that are being detained.”

Tucek also said that there are members of the community–parents, religious organizations, and other service providers–who have been concerned about the Louisville detention center closure, the services that would be provided, and about where the young people will be sent.

“And those voices have had no input into the negotiations that have happened. There have been some community meetings in the month or so prior to the holidays, but at that time the plans were mostly already settled, and it’s kind of felt like a ‘This is the way we are doing it. You really have no say in the matter,’ sort of approach,” Tucek told Spectrum News 1.

In response, Lamb said via email, “DJJ held four community forums that were open to everyone in the community–stakeholders, family members of youth, citizens, service providers, public defenders, and the public. DJJ has also had conference calls and meetings with the Jefferson County Public Defenders’ Office, Department of Public Advocacy, Children’s Law Center, and the ACLU regarding ways to minimize the impact of this transition. Establishing video conferencing for both families and attorneys was the result of these discussions.”

To assist with the initial expenses of operating this new JRJDC, Louisville is paying the Commonwealth $685,000. Besides, the city will cover some transportation costs, such as picking up youth daily from JRJDC for transport to and from the court. Also, the city will pay medical costs, including psychiatric care, for pre-adjudicated Jefferson County youth in any Juvenile Detention Center.

The memorandum of the agreement provided by DJJ, which lays out the terms and conditions between the Commonwealth and Louisville regarding the transition of the secure detention of Jefferson County juveniles, is set to terminate on June 30, 2020.

Regarding what will happen after June 30, 2020, Lamb stated in the email, “The Department of Juvenile Justice will be working with Louisville Metro Government to determine future operations or plans.”