FRANKFORT – As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am pleased to write to you about a potential partnership between Kentucky and the PEW Charitable Trusts on juvenile justice reform. Many of you know of my interest and commitment to fairness and transparency in our justice system. There have been news stories raising the question of how effective the system is in treating youth. While their age should not be an excuse for lawlessness, we also have the responsibility to ensure that juvenile offenders get the help they need to be productive citizens, and hold parents accountable where necessary. That has been my focus as Senate co-chair of the Task Force on the Unified Juvenile Code.
At my invitation and that of the House co-chair, Representative John Tilley, the Pew organization, a non-partisan, nationally-recognized think tank, has been evaluating the possibility of bringing their resources to bear on juvenile justice reform in Kentucky, and are at a point of beginning that serious involvement.
At my request, Senate President Robert Stivers met with representatives from Pew to see what we can accomplish together. I’ve spent many hours talking about the issue both locally and with LRC staff on possible legislative solutions. It is my hope that Pew will bring their research and experiences from working with other states to Kentucky so we can learn what has worked and what has not.
This is just the beginning of the process. There are still various steps Kentucky must take before agreeing to partner with Pew. While we have worked successfully in the past with the organization on both corrections reform and pension reform, I must be assured that the ultimate answer will be one grounded in our values and our needs. Public safety is paramount, but we must achieve that while responsibly teaching our youth a better way. I believe that is a goal well worth advancing.