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More changes on the way for embattled Kentucky juvenile justice system, including defensive equipment for staff

Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice

Gov. Andy Beshear announced another round of reforms aimed at fixing the state’s struggling juvenile justice system.

In response to increasing violence at detention centers and a staffing shortage, the Beshear administration has already taken a number of actions: creating the first all-female detention center, moving higher-risk juveniles into tighter security facilities, and shifting from a regionally-based system to one that houses juveniles based on the severity of their offenses.

Now, Beshear is bumping starting salaries for DJJ workers to $50k a year – a move he says the current state budget can handle due to vacancies but will require General Assembly help to maintain. The administration is also enhancing physical security at facilities, and hiring a new DJJ director of security, former Department of Corrections warden Larry Chandler.

One other change on the horizon: providing defensive equipment to DJJ workers. That could include outfitting staff with pepper spray and making tasers available for more serious situations.

"Right now, when we have a major incident, all they can do is lock down, possibly not even intercede when there is a violent altercation because they don't have the ability to do so safely," Gov. Beshear said.

The state will also be beefing up training for juvenile justice system workers, in part to help stop the introduction of contraband into the facilities.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.