Juvenile justice task force wants more time to study topic

jbrammer@herald-leader.comDecember 19, 2012 

FRANKFORT — The task force created by the 2012 General Assembly to study how Kentucky law is applied to juveniles wants more time to complete its work.

The panel, co-chaired by Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, approved a request Wednesday to ask lawmakers for more time to complete their work.

Tilley and Stine said the panel could work next summer and fall during the legislative interim and present recommendations to the 2014 General Assembly.

Under a resolution approved earlier this year, the Unified Juvenile Code Task Force is to study establishing an age of criminal responsibility, and whether to eliminate or modify status offenses and how status offenders are treated.

Status offenses, which are not considered crimes, include running away, truancy and being beyond the control of parents and school officials.

Advocates in the state are concerned about the number of status offenders placed in detention. In 2010 in Kentucky, there were 1,541 bookings of youth into juvenile detention centers for status offenses. That accounted for 18.5 percent of all young people who were incarcerated.

The task force adopted by voice vote Wednesday a report saying that, through no one's fault, the late start of the task force in August provided insufficient time to review and discuss all the important issues assigned to it.

"The decision is to continue this process and step up the discussion," Tilley said. More members might be needed on the 11-member task force from specialty areas, such as mental health advocates and the Kentucky Education Association, she said.

Only one member voted against the draft report. Peter Schuler, chief juvenile defender for the Louisville Metro Public Defender office, said the report left out key issues, particularly how to deal with children 10 and younger who are brought into the juvenile justice system, and "it just seems overall that nothing ever gets done."

Schuler, however, said he is glad that the task force will continue and would like to remain on it "if they will have me."

Kentucky Supreme Court Deputy Chief Justice Mary C. Noble of Lexington, a member of the task force, said a 1986 package of state laws known as the juvenile code is "pretty good" but that the state's courts, schools and families have changed dramatically since then.

"I appreciate a continuation of this," she said.

Stine said it is important that the task force identify all public funds spent on juvenile justice across the various state agencies and see whether there is a way to realign the spending more efficiently.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service