A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Justice Cabinet creates incentive fund to provide alternatives to out-of-home placement for youth

The Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the Department of Juvenile Justice are launching a new incentive fund for local programs that supervise youth in the community, cutting taxpayer costs and reserving secure facilities for only the most serious offenders.

The move is part of a comprehensive overhaul of Kentucky’s juvenile justice system – known as Senate Bill 200 – that took effect in 2015. It called for more effective use of government resources and better use of community interventions to protect public safety and hold offenders accountable.

As a result, the department will award up to $1 million in grants this year to local judicial districts that provide community-based services, treatment programs or alternatives to out-of-home placement. Districts or groups of districts will apply for the funds through a partnership with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which is acting as the fiscal agent for the grants.

“These efforts are the perfect example of doing more with less,” said Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley. “We are holding government accountable for better results and offenders accountable for better choices. And we are doing it while continuing to preserve public safety. I want to commend the department, the courts and all of the communities who are joining together to bring these reforms to fruition.”

Carey Cockerell, commissioner for the Department of Juvenile Justice, said he expects strong interest from judicial districts.

“Local services and supervision have been shown to reduce recidivism and provide better outcomes for youth, families and communities,” Commissioner Cockerell said. “Many judicial districts are already reaping the benefits of SB 200, and this incentive fund will only strengthen our momentum.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, who sponsored SB 200, praised the progress.

“SB 200 has been an enormous success here in Kentucky, and has inspired similar sea change policy reforms in half a dozen other states across the country,” Sen. Westerfield said. “Because of our focus on better outcomes for youth, we’ve been able to free up precious resources to provide additional services for youth most at risk, right in their own communities. Kentucky’s smarter investment in the lives of its children and their families will continue to pay dividends for many years to come.”

The maximum amount that any district or group of districts can receive from the incentive fund is $200,000. The minimum amount is $10,000.

Programs may include family and community reintegration and prevention services, restorative justice programs, in-home and wraparound services, afterschool and evening reporting, community work projects, basic life skills, job skills and employment training, job placement, educational support, as well as mentoring and apprenticeship programs.

The AOC is providing technical assistance to help judicial districts and community stakeholders write their applications. Experts from AOC will also collect and report on data that judicial districts are required to maintain under the incentive program.

“This is good government at work,” said Laurie K. Dudgeon, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. “The money we would have spent to detain youth will instead be used to provide resources and treatment services to young people in communities across the state. I appreciate the AOC’s close partnership with the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I’m pleased the incentive fund will help us realize the full intent of Senate Bill 200.”

Funding for the incentives was available thanks to savings from SB 200. The legislation sought to improve outcomes in the juvenile justice system by expanding access to timely, quality treatment and supervision in the community, focusing the most intensive resources on serious offenders, and enhancing data collection and oversight mechanisms to ensure the policies are working.

So far, it has reduced the department’s total youth population by 60 percent since fall 2013. New commitments fell from 493 in 2013 to 253 last year.

That has allowed the department to realign operations over the past 18 months, reducing dependence on secure facilities and channeling more funds toward community-based practices. Four facilities have been closed or consolidated into the department’s system during that time.

Overall, the reforms have freed up $4 million to reinvest in community supervision, aftercare services, day treatment centers, and the new incentive fund.

From Justice and Public Safety Cabinet

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