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Kentucky Juvenile Justice Reform Evaluation: Implementation Evaluation Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2019
43 pages

This report presents the findings and methodology of an evaluation of key juvenile justice reforms mandated in Kentucky's SB 200 legislation passed in April 2014.


SB 200 mandated a data-sharing agreement between juvenile justice agencies, revised procedures for screening and assessing youth risk/needs, authorized procedures for including more youth in pre-court diversion programs, and proposed procedures for reducing the use and length of youth commitments to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). SB 200 also prioritized an increase in community-based services for youth through reinvestment of savings achieved from reductions in DJJ commitments. Kentucky's reform efforts under SB 200 were influenced by the federal Juvenile Justice System Improvement Initiative, which began in 2014 to fund technical assistance to states in implementing system-wide juvenile justice reforms through the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The team that evaluated the SB 200 reforms used a retrospective qualitative evaluation design that included interviews, observations, and document review. The evaluation's focus was the process of implementing the reforms, with attention to perceived challenges, successes, and areas needing improvement. Key challenges identified were limited resources for state and local agencies, lack of additional funding to implement reforms, and the lack of existing community-based services. Training, engagement of staff, and collaboration among frontline and leadership personnel were key in implementing the reforms. Initial reform successes were identified as an increase in the use of diversion between 2012 and 2017 and declines in DJJ commitments during similar time periods. Areas identified as needing improvement are disproportionate benefits of reform for White youth compared to Black youth, increases in charging levels and truancies, lack of access to community-based services, and a lack of participation in cooperative meetings by all required members. 1 table and 20 references

Date Published: December 1, 2019