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NKY's juvenile detention center is still only partially open after months of searching for staff

Zack Carreon

The Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Newport remains partially open after Gov. Andy Beshear moved all the girls housed at the facility to a different center more than two hours away in Boyd County.

The Newport facility became Kentucky's first and only all-girl juvenile center late last year. The decision to transition Newport's facility from a center for both boys and girls to one exclusively for girls came after violent incidents at other juvenile centers around the state caused Beshear to initiate a change.

In June, only six months after the transition, Beshear announced the Northern Kentucky facility would have to partially close due to a lack of staff and the girls would need to be moved elsewhere for around 90 days.

RELATED: Kentucky partially closing its only all-girl juvenile detention facility is 'unacceptable' some say

Now, more than 90 days later, staffing in Newport is not where it needs to be and the girls are still being housed in Boyd County.

According to the Kentucky Justice & Public Safety Cabinet, the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center has a 50% security officer vacancy rate, meaning the facility is still limited. The center currently operates as a female youth development center and can accept new female juvenile intakes as well as house juveniles returning to the area for court hearings, but cannot house all of Kentucky's female juvenile offenders.

Less than a month after the center moved to limited operations, state senator John Schickel, along with close to a dozen sheriffs from around the region, spoke out against the decision, saying the facility's partial closure was putting a strain on local law enforcement resources.

RELATED: Lawmakers and law enforcement want NKY's juvenile detention center to reopen

Since then, little has changed in terms of staffing numbers in Newport. In July, the officer vacancy rate was the same as it is today — at 50% — despite the department's efforts to recruit new officers through job fairs, advertisements, and social media posts.

New leadership

However, there has been a change in Campbell Juvenile Detention Center's leadership. According to a report from the Lexington Herald-Leader, the facility's superintendent, Kraig McWhorter, was fired by DJJ Commissioner Vicki Reed in August for violating policy and releasing a girl from custody without properly filing the necessary paperwork and asking for proper identification from the adult who came to pick her up. The report also says McWhorter showed up to the facility a day prior staggering and smelling of alcohol.

A new superintendent, Antonio Roberts, was recently hired to fill the position. The Justice & Public Safety Cabinet says Roberts has over a decade of criminal justice experience and started working at the Newport facility on Monday.

The Boyd Regional Juvenile Detention Center is expected to house the girls until the Campbell County center is adequately staffed.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.