Amid scathing allegations at youth detention center, Louisville hosts national symposium

After scathing allegations against a state-run juvenile detention center in Lyndon, the Louisville Metro is welcoming a national symposium on juvenile services.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 6:57 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After scathing allegations against a state-run juvenile detention center in Lyndon, the Louisville Metro is welcoming a national symposium on juvenile services.

The yearly convention, called “Courage to Change: Creating New Opportunities,” is bringing in experts in the field from all over the country.

The convention comes at the heels of an exclusive Troubleshooter investigation exposing allegations of assaults, violations and riots at the Jefferson Regional Juvenile Detention Center on Lagrange Road.

A number of whistleblowers told WAVE Troubleshooters the facility should be closed.

Numerous whistleblowers, speaking independently of each other, said that conditions in the facility were not only illegal, but dangerous.

They spoke of numerous assaults on staff, riots, youth breaking through the doors to their dorms, a co-ed unit in which teens had been caught having sex, a lack of policies and procedures, and encouragement for incidents to not be documented.

They said the youth started a riot because they had no access to showers.

“If you take the kids out of their rooms to get a shower, then they refuse to go back up and they want to fight the staff, then it turns into the kids have took over,” one whistleblower said.

“So sometimes they don’t get showers, sometimes they don’t get their phone calls to contact their family,” they added. “Their families will call and say, ‘I have not heard from my child for a couple of days, is he OK, is she OK?’ Now what they tell them, I have no idea.”

There were times, they said, when only two staff members ran the facility containing up to 30 detainees which would be a federal violation.

“Very scared,” one whistleblower said. “Either you fight for your life, or the kid is just going to beat you up.”

WAVE News asked for on-camera interviews with the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Deputy Commissioner, George Scott or the Commissioner, Vicki Reed. They declined and sent a statement instead.

Reed did appear as the opening keynote speaker at the symposium, which is being held at the Galt House in downtown Louisville from Sept. 27 through Sept. 30.

The title of the session was “Running the Race for Excellence: Providing Quality Services to Kentucky’s Justice-involved Youth.”

As part of her presentation, Reed was to speak about “Kentucky’s promising approaches and best practices in serving justice-involved youth,” the website states.

“The agency has been nationally recognized for the continuum of care it provides for rehabilitating youth,” it continues. “Kentucky can serve youth up to age 21 and is one of eight states in which by law there are no youth under age 18 housed in an adult jail or prison.”

The symposium is organized by the National Partnership for Juvenile Services. According to online information, the group is a “central organization for juvenile justice professionals to collaborate, learn, train, and grow.”

“The National Partnership for Juvenile Services provides professional development and technical assistance and promotes best practices and standards to the field of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention to positively impact youth, families and communities,” the info states.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s office said they sent notice in August that the Governor would not be able to attend the symposium due to previously scheduled news conferences. The Governor sent a video message, which was played at the conference.

The investigation was prompted after back-to-back reports of rioting, and police having to respond to get things under control.

On August 27, WAVE News was on scene after reports of juvenile inmates breaking through the doors of their dorms, breaking windows to try to escape and setting fired.

One teen did escape the facility, which is surrounded by a residential area. He was later located by police.

“No one at this point is in control,” the dispatcher warned the responding officers and firefighters. “They’re trying to break the windows.”

Two other similar incidents occurred within weeks of each other.

Since the story, the number of detainees have been limited to below the intended 16 beds. At times, the facility house nearly 30 detainees.