U.S. Department of Justice investigating Kentucky DJJ

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into the conditions at eight of the youth detention centers and one development center in the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice. 

“The investigation will examine whether Kentucky protects children confined in these facilities from harm caused by excessive force by staff, prolonged and punitive isolation and inadequate protection from violence and sexual abuse,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The investigation will also examine whether Kentucky provides adequate mental health services and required special education and related services to children with disabilities.” 

U.S. Attorney Mike Bennett for the Western District of Kentucky said in a statement that he “stands ready to protect the rights of all children in Kentucky, including those who end up in juvenile detention” and will work to “conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these allegations.”

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Keith Jackson said in a statement Monday afternoon that “every juvenile placed in the custody of the state deserves to be safe. We have made progress on the security of our juvenile facilities; we have trained our personnel, protected juveniles and staff against violent attacks and taken corrective action against employee misconduct.” 

“We look forward to being able to talk to the Department of Justice, because as of today, no members of our leadership have been interviewed, and we have not had the opportunity to discuss any incident, policy or issue with the Department of Justice,” Jackson said. 

In a video posted to the Justice website Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the investigators will “review whether there are unconstitutional conditions including use of unreasonable physical and chemical force by staff, inappropriate use of isolation, failure to protect children from physical and sexual abuse and adequate mental health care.”

Ahead of the 2023 legislative session, reports of violence in Kentucky’s juvenile justice system regularly made headlines, including a riot in Adair County during which a girl in state custody was allegedly sexually assaulted and employees were attacked at a youth detention center in Warren County. DJJ has also faced persistent staffing issues, the Lantern has reported. 

This story will be updated. 

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