Kentucky’s new juvenile justice chief is veteran of running adult corrections system

Kentucky Lantern

Randy White

A  longtime adult corrections official will head the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday. 

The new commissioner, Randy White, worked in the Kentucky prison system for 27 years in multiple roles, including correctional officer, warden and most recently more than five years as deputy corrections commissioner, according to a release from the governor’s office. He retired in December.

White joins recently appointed leaders in the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

Keith Jackson

Beshear appointed  Keith Jackson justice secretary in February. Jackson, who had been the  cabinet’s deputy secretary since 2021, previously served as Lexington’s chief of fire and emergency services and commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Jackson succeeds Kerry Harvey who retired in January.

Mona Womack, the  justice cabinet’s new deputy secretary, has extensive experience in state government, including 26 years at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as an attorney, division director and deputy general counsel.

Mona Womack

The state’s understaffed juvenile detention facilities have been plagued in recent years by violence and abuse, drawing criticism of Beshear from Republican lawmakers and a critical audit. Lawmakers boosted funding for juvenile facilities and staff pay last year and are expected to do more this year.

White succeeds Vicki Reed, who retired in January.

A news release from the governor’s office says White will “prioritize reducing youth crime and recidivism, increasing mental health treatment, enhancing employee training and securing all 27 juvenile facilities to better protect youth and staff, while continuing to implement the administration’s aggressive plan to enhance safety in response to violent incidents.”

In addition to eight secure detention centers, the department also runs six youth development centers, group homes and day treatment programs across the state.

The release quotes White: “Juveniles entering the criminal justice system are committing harsher crimes and require stronger rehabilitative programs than when I started in corrections 27 years ago, and as a former deputy commissioner I had a lot of interaction with these juveniles when they would transfer to adult prison,” he said. “And for Kentucky to truly reduce the juvenile population, we must focus our efforts on alternatives to detention, education, programming, employment and mental health. Our juveniles need our support, and I pledge to do just that.” 

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