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Youth detention center closing in 4 months: ‘Nobody really knows what's going to happen’

No matter where the young people end up, they will be able to make video calls to families and have access to their attorneys.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In just four months, Metro Louisville's youth detention center will shut down and turn over to the state which means about 40 kids could be miles apart from their families. State officials are still working with city leaders to figure out where the kids will end up. 

"What is going to happen initially when a young person is arrested today like where will they be held at?" ACLU's juvenile justice field organizer, Keturah Herron has been trying to get answers from the state since Metro Council members voted to turn over the detention center to the state.

"The thing that's most harmful right now is that nobody really knows what's going to happen," Herron said.

Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, John Tilley said they hope to announce a plan in a few weeks.

"This vote came and hit us mid-budget year with no resources to retrofit a facility, and it would cost us maybe two to three million dollars to make it a detention-only secured facility," Tilley said. 

The state is not taking over the Louisville facility because it is in need of repairs, but Tilley said they are considering other options in the city.

"Ultimately, we think we can get a much better product and a much better result for these children at a less cost and that will allow us to spend resources in other areas into education and preventive programming," Tilley said.

No matter where the young people end up, they will be able to make video calls to families and have access to their attorneys.  

"Sadly, I've been told in a number of cases families are not visiting their children even in Louisville," Tilley said. "We will work with non-profits and we will work with any resource to make sure we can to try to keep that child exposed, but also make sure that the visits are happening."

Advocates say it is time to find long-term solutions.

"In Kentucky, any age young person could be charged for a crime," Herron said. "Legislatively, one of the things we'll be looking at is actually establishing the age of criminal responsibility."

There is also talks about establishing a youth development center.

"I'm confident that we can use this as an opportunity to produce better results for these children and their families," Tilley said.

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