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Kentucky changes course with its juvenile detention center in NKY

Zack Carreon

Less than a year after Gov. Andy Beshear announced the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Newport would become Kentucky's first and only all-girls detention facility, the Department of Juvenile Justice has now decided to reopen the center to boys with low-level offenses only.

The decision was made by Beshear to house boys and girls in separate facilities following a series of violent altercations inside some of Kentucky's juvenile detention centers.

In June, only months after all of Kentucky's female juvenile offenders were moved to the Newport facility in late 2022, Beshear announced another change to temporarily move those girls to a different detention center in Boyd County due to staffing issues. As of Wednesday, the move is now permanent.

RELATED: Newport facility to become Kentucky's first and only all-girl juvenile detention center

On Nov. 20, the Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice Vickie Reed sent a letter to Kentucky's police chiefs and sheriffs informing them that every girl being held in state juvenile detention centers will be transported to the Boyd Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Ashland.

The center in Boyd County was previously a facility that housed boys, but that changed in June when the center started housing girls exclusively. Boys previously housed in Boyd were sent to a different location in Breathitt County where they will remain.

Moving the girls to Boyd County was initially supposed to be a temporary solution lasting 90 days, but Reed's letter claims the move was a positive change for the girls housed there and gave credit to Boyd Regional's female Superintendent Hope Smith for making the facility a more therapeutic and secure environment, which she writes has led to a decrease in behavioral issues.

This latest move comes during a transitionary period for the Department of Juvenile Justice. Two weeks ago Commissioner Reed decided to resign from the department effective Jan. 1. Reed was appointed to the position in 2021 and was the fifth commissioner since 2018.

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

Law enforcement agencies will now have to transport female juveniles to Boyd County and also transport them to and from all court appearances.

In July, Kentucky State Senator John Schickel and around a dozen sheriffs and police chiefs from Northern Kentucky came together to express their concern with the partial closure of Campbell Regional, saying the need to constantly transport juveniles to different facilities hours away was putting a strain on local law enforcement resources. The Department of Juvenile Justice says it will work with local departments to help transport juveniles.

Reed says staffing levels at the Campbell Regional Juvenile Detention Center are still not ideal, but its designation as a facility for low-level male offenders will allow the department to bring the center up to its standard.

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