Youth tried in the adult criminal court face the same penalties as adults including the death penalty or life without parole. Subsequently they will receive little or no education, mental health treatment, or rehabilitative programming. In addition, the ensuing adult criminal record may significantly limit their future education and employment opportunities.
Kentucky Juveniles in Adult Jails
Juveniles are at greater risk of rape, assault and death in adult jails and prisons with adult inmates.
Case: Horn v. Oldham County
Location: LaGrange, Kentucky
Offense: 15-year-old boy refuses to obey his mother
Detained: Adult jail
Result: Soon after he was incarcerated in an adult jail, the 15-year-old boy took off his shirt, wrapped one sleeve around his neck and the other around the bars of his cell, and hung himself.
Jail records show that the l,390 children held over a four-year period were there mostly for minor and status offenses.
Transfer of Juvenile Offender to Youthful Offender in Kentucky
A preliminary hearing is held by the district court (upon motion of the county attorney) to determine if the child should be tried as a "youthful offender" in circuit court. Factors involved in this decision are:
- Probable cause to believe the child committed the alleged offense exists and the situation meets statutory age, offense, and prior record criteria.
- No less than two of eight determinative factors specified by Kentucky statute weigh in favor of transfer.
Conditions for a mandatory waiver exist when:
- The child is at least 14 years of age.
- The alleged felony involved the use of a firearm
- The district court finds probable cause to believe that the child committed the alleged offense.
Kentucky's Purpose Clause for Delinquency Proceedings
(1) KRS Chapters 600 to 645 shall be known as the Kentucky Unified Juvenile Code.
(2) KRS Chapters 600 to 645 shall be interpreted to effectuate the following express legislative purposes:
(a) The Commonwealth shall direct its efforts to promoting protection of children; to the strengthening and encouragement of family life for the protection and care of children; to strengthen and maintain the biological family unit; and to offer all available resources to any family in need of them;
(b) It also shall be declared to be the policy of this Commonwealth that all efforts shall be directed toward providing each child a safe and nurturing home;
(c) The court shall show that other less restrictive alternatives have been attempted or are not feasible in order to insure that children are not removed from families except when absolutely necessary;
(d) Any child brought before the court under KRS Chapters 600 to 645 shall have a right to treatment reasonably calculated to bring about an improvement of his or her condition and, to the extent possible, have treatment administered in the county of residence of the custodial parent or parents or in the nearest available county;
(e) KRS Chapter 635 shall be interpreted to promote the best interests of the child through providing treatment and sanctions to reduce recidivism and assist in making the child a productive citizen by advancing the principles of personal responsibility, accountability, and reformation, while maintaining public safety, and seeking restitution and reparation;
(f) KRS Chapter 640 shall be interpreted to promote public safety and the concept that every child be held accountable for his or her conduct through the use of restitution, reparation, and sanctions, in an effort to rehabilitate delinquent youth; and
(g) It shall further be the policy of this Commonwealth to provide judicial procedures in which rights and interests of all parties, including the parents and victims, are recognized and all parties are assured prompt and fair hearings. Unless otherwise provided, such protections belong to the child individually and may not be waived by any other party.
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