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'We don't want to throw them away': Community reacts to Louisville youth detention center potentially reopening

Community leaders feel reopening a youth detention center is a step in the right direction. However, they say we're still a long way from solving the real problem.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Reopening a juvenile detention center in Louisville has been in Rev. David Snardon's prayers for quite some time.

"We started hearing from families about not being able to reach their loved ones, their children not being allowed showers, or not being fed adequately everyday," Snardon said. 

He says having a center nearby will bring parents closer to their children, help minors get re-acclimated and ensure their well-being.

"We don't want to treat them like they've been convicted of crimes, when they haven't yet, and we don't want to throw them away even if they made some mistakes," he said. 

Minors were moved miles away after Louisville's detention center closed in 2019, due to budget cuts. On Thursday, city officials announced a proposal to reopen it, leaving Snardon with more questions than answers.

"This is a good first step, but we can't get pacified by them just bringing it back," Snardon said. "We need to know what's the programming? What's the communication? Are are we going to be able to address the workers? The training? The communication with families?"

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, shares the same sentiments.

"We all know that what's going on in other detention facilities right now is a result of inadequate staff, lack of quality within the workforce," Brooks said. "There is no comprehensive systemic programming to help these kids and because of all those conditions the focus is really on hold, contain, punish."

He adds that if the goal is to help minors and lower crime in the city, there must be change within the facility.

"Is the detention center a place where we can get kids back on the right track? And if that's the case then yeah, kids are being helped and public safety is being improved," Brooks said. "But if all we do is detain and punish, we're really creating almost a next generation of crime. That is what has happened. That's what's been happening."

Both men hope lawmakers will meet with families and community groups about the facility so they can discuss what's in the best interest of the children.

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