‘Mistakes have been made’: State begins hearings for juvenile detention center violations

After blistering reports of assaults, violations and chaos at a juvenile detention center in Lyndon, the state’s Oversight and Investigations Committee held its
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 6:45 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After blistering reports of assaults, violations and chaos at a juvenile detention center in Lyndon, the state’s Oversight and Investigations Committee held its first hearing Thursday.

Kerry Harvey, the Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, admitted to several of the problems, adding that “mistakes have been made.”

Harvey told members the Jefferson Regional Facility, which has been in the middle of exclusive WAVE Troubleshooter investigative reports, is now on “limited operations.”

Harvey spoke of a recent riot where teen had smuggled a lighter and a cell phone into the facility. She gave the lighter to another male teen, he said, who set a small fire.

However, no one took the lighter away, Harvey continued.

Four days later, another fire was set with the same lighter. This time, the incident got out of control and a teen escaped.

“Our staff sometimes makes mistakes, sometimes makes big mistakes,” Harvey said. “Not nearly as many as their boss. None of them make as many mistakes as I do. And it’s the mistakes and the unfortunate incidents and inexcusable incidents like we’re talking about today that attract public attention, and your attention, and that’s not a complaint. It’s appropriate.”

Harvey stated they have now limited the number of teens staying at the facility and their length of stay.

Now, he said, they are supposed to be housed at the detention center only until their first hearing after the arrest, which is usually within 48 hours.

Harvey also spoke of increasing the pay for employees at six facilities, including the one in Lyndon.

Then the questions began.

Representative Jason Nemes began listing a series of other incidents of pure chaos including teens cracking a staff member’s ribs, assaulting others, fights, teens taking over the control room and other riots.

He also stated he had concerns about incident reports being altered with different narratives or missing altogether.

Nemes zeroed in reports of teens having sex and being housed in co-ed units. That was something the Commissioner of the Juvenile Justice Department said was almost unavoidable because of the facility itself.

Mike Ross, a former supervisor at the facility testified before the committee that he had concerns about a cover up of incidents and staff being told not to call police. He recalled numerous times in which he reported his concerns which were swept under the rug and dismissed.

He pointed out surveillance video was missing, as well as incident reports.  He stated at one time, the facility had 37 teens with only 34 beds.

He claims the teens civil rights were being violated by not being allowed phone calls, and being locked in their rooms for days on end without showers.

“Youth rights were being violated, same as now,” Ross said. “Continued after I left. I was speaking up because I was trained to follow policies and procedures. I would speak up, ‘this is not right’ and to keep me quiet, they moved me to third shift where I had been the first shift supervisor the whole time. They didn’t want me seeing stuff they were doing.”

Lyndon’s Mayor also testified that the facility should close because of its inadequate layout for a detention center and concerns from surrounding residents.

Nemes has requested to inspect records.