City, state officials and Sheriff’s office discuss plans for transitioning youth in detention and closing the local youth detention center, input sought

September 19, 2019

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration, Kentucky Juvenile Justice Commissioner Denny Butler, representatives of the Administrative Office of the Courts, and Jefferson County Sheriff John Aubrey today outlined the tentative agreement for the transition of care for detained Louisville youth to the State Department of Juvenile Justice in light of the approaching December 31st closure of the local facility resulting from this year’s Metro budget reductions.

Points include:

  • Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the State Department of Juvenile Justice will be responsible for youth detainment in Jefferson County, as it is for all other counties in Kentucky.
  • As part of this shift, youth who are arrested by police in Jefferson County will initially be taken by the arresting police agency to meet with a court designated worker for an assessment and recommendation to the Juvenile Court Judge, who will determine if the youth should be detained until a court appearance.
  • If they are to be detained, the arresting agency will take them to the state’s Audubon Youth Development Center, 8711 La Grange Road, in eastern Jefferson County, where they will be held until their arraignment and detention hearings. Metro staff will transport pre-adjudicated youth.
  • If the court detains a youth, the Sheriff’s office will transport them to one of the state’s other youth detention facilities, outside Jefferson County.

The closing of Youth Detention Services (YDS) is one of many steps that Louisville Metro Government is taking as part of the FY 2019-20 budget cuts, which are in response to an increasing state pension obligation and a Metro Council vote last spring against new revenue.

The city had considered turning YDS back to the state months ago in response to the budgetary challenges but because of the complexities of unwinding the current system, rebuilding a new one, and concerns of equity, the Mayor included another year of funding in his FY20 budget proposal while contract discussions with the state continued. In June, however, Metro Council appropriated only a half-year funding, which expedited the process.

Running the detention center currently costs the city about $9.7 million annually. While the state has been paying the city a per diem based on the number of detained youths, that subsidy has declined, and the city has been drawing only about $1.6 million annually.

As part of the new agreement, the city will contribute to the cost of expanding and operating a portion of the Audubon facility. The state will operate this hybrid, short-term facility and will expand the current alternative placement services.

During today’s meeting, officials asked members of the Advisory Committee for their input as they work to ensure as smooth a transition as possible, and to mitigate the impact on youth and families.

The Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee members include local, state, and federal juvenile justice leaders, government officials, and community partners, who seek to develop programs, strategies and recommendations that are consistent with state law, core requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, core strategies of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, and the reduction of Disproportionate Minority Contact throughout the juvenile justice system.

Mayor Fischer today thanked the committee for their input, and thanked the state, judges and court officials, the sheriff and his Metro Government team for their work on the transition plan. He also expressed his deep gratitude for the work of YDS Director Dr. Ursula Mullins and her team.

“Youth detention is a challenging environment under normal circumstances, and I know the uncertainty of recent months have made it even more difficult. I greatly appreciate the hard work and commitment of Dr. Mullins and her team,” the Mayor said. “Our city deeply appreciates her bravery and compassion.”

The Mayor added that his administration’s goal has been to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for the youth and their families, the criminal justice system and the dedicated and hardworking employees of YDS.

“This was not an easy decision, and we know that it will place a burden on some families in our community,” the Mayor said. “Our hope is that this focus on youth detention by all stakeholders, including city and state officials, as well as police and the justice system, will result in more innovative and compassionate approaches to working with troubled youth, and avoid more costly detentions.”

“As we face tough discussions about what is next for our youth and our employees, I am humbled to work side-by-side with our committed staff who advocate for our youth,” said Dr. Ursula Mullins, Director, Youth Detention Services. “I want to thank our YDS family who have worked in a situation of uncertainty for months and have continued to show their dedication to Louisville youth and families.”

“I’m very pleased to see that the state and Metro Government have been able to come to terms to provide services for the children in YDS,” said Metro Council President David James. “While I’m personally not pleased to see YDS shut down, this is the reality we are faced with.”

A copy of the tentative outline distributed during today’s meeting can be found here.

Throughout the process, updates, questions and answers will be posted here.