Kentucky’s juvenile justice system is likely to undergo some major changes before the end of the 2023 legislative session.
House Bill 3 is one of several juvenile justice reform-related bills that will be considered this year, according to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Kevin D. Bratcher, R-Louisville.
Under HB 3, children taken into custody for a violent felony offense will be detained a maximum of 48 hours before receiving a detention hearing and an evaluation on mental health and substance use disorders, Bratcher said.
“I believe those two things are very important for our most troubled children to try to get their lives turned around,” Bratcher added.
Additionally, HB 3 seeks to:
- hold uncooperative parents accountable when it comes to their child’s school attendance or participation in a diversion program;
- open records for five years for children convicted of a violent felony offense; and
- allocate $9 million to the state Department of Juvenile justice for reopening the Jefferson County Youth Detention Center with 40 beds.
Rep. Keturah Herron, D-Louisville, shared several concerns she has with the bill, including a section addressing juvenile record confidentiality.
Josh Crawford, a Louisville resident and director of criminal justice initiatives for the Georgia Center for Opportunity, said that portion of the bill only applies to children convicted of serious felony offenses and the information would be relevant when it comes to employment opportunities and firearm purchases.
Bratcher said he would be willing to work with lawmakers who have concerns about that section of the bill to narrow the scope of what would be made public record.
Herron, who has worked in the juvenile justice system, said the legislature should be cautious.
“We are doing a lot on the adult (justice) side as it relates to reentry and second chances, and so we need to make sure we’re doing the same thing for juveniles,” Herron added.
Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said she is also in favor of a restorative justice approach for children in the juvenile justice system. She said she plans to file a floor amendment to HB 3 to allow children to receive treatment while incarcerated.
Following testimony from concerned community members, Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said he agrees with a lot of what was said, but he believes HB 3 will protect children and Kentucky’s communities, especially in Louisville.
“We want them to be safe, successful, good citizens, good mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters for the rest of their life,” Nemes said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The House Judiciary Committee approved HB 3 by a 15-1 vote with two pass votes. It will now go before the full House for consideration.
Submitted by Jordan Hensley, legislative research commission