Future of Louisville juvenile offenders still unclear

Future of Louisville juvenile offenders still unclear
After budget cuts, the facility, which houses about 40 juvenile offenders on an average day, will close at the end of the year and the state will take custody of the juveniles. (Gray News) (Source: Gray News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The clock is ticking on Louisville’s youth detention center.

After budget cuts, the facility, which houses about 40 juvenile offenders on an average day, will close at the end of the year and the state will take custody of the juveniles.

During a Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee meeting Thursday, state and local officials agreed most juvenile offenders have a better chance of turning their lives around when they are in custody close to home and connected to their families.

“The evidence base has shown that the services provided to the kid at a local level are more substantial,” Kentucky Juvenile Justice Commissioner Denny Butler said. “And we have a better chance of connecting that kid and making him a productive member of society.”

Butler assumed the position as the state’s top juvenile official in August. He compared the task of taking over Louisville’s juvenile offenders to “drinking from a fire hose.”

Operation of the Metro Detention Center costs the city $9.7 million a year. Mayor Greg Fischer’s plan to keep the facility open through 2020 was rejected by the Metro Council.

“This was not an easy decision, and we know that it will place a burden on some families in our community,” Fischer said in a press release. “Our hope is that this focus on youth detention by all stakeholders, including city and state officials, as well as police and the justice system, will result in more innovative and compassionate approaches to working with troubled youth, and avoid more costly detentions.”

Current state plans will create a 10-bed, short-term detention facility off La Grange Road.

The commissioner also said there are plans to create a local state youth development center. The commission will explore ways to put more youthful offenders on home detention and home supervision.

Another possible option is video conferencing to keep remotely-detained teens connected to their Louisville families and attorneys.

Some believe that’s not really solving the problem.

“Imagine giving an aspirin when surgery’s required,” the Rev. Roosevelt Lightsy Jr. said. “Video conferencing would certainly be an attempt to remedy the separation. But there’s nothing like being able to touch mama or have grandmother smack you up the backside of your head and say you better do better.”

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