The Advocate, Vol. 21, No. 2 (March 1999)

Balancing Quality Juvenile Services with Consistent Sanctions

The attached is a rebuttal to the article Defending Juveniles Accused of Sex Crimes published in the November 1998 issue of The Advocate.

Since its inception, the Department of Juvenile Justice has striven to operate in a cooperative, collaborative manner with other agencies and individuals concerned about the youth placed in our care. Part of our responsibility relevant to these efforts has been the development of strong participatory relationships, the dissemination of accurate information to the public and other stakeholders, and, when necessary, the correction of erroneous information or perceptions.

In reference to the article "Defending Juveniles Accused of Sex Crimes " in the November 1998 issue of "The Advocate," it is critical to point out a number of factual efforts within the text. The article discusses The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), sex offenders committed to DJJ, sex offender programming provided by DJJ, and the sex offender classification process internal to DJJ.

Committed sex offenders may be placed in one of four DJJ clinically supervised sex offender programs. Three of these programs are state operated and one is a contracted private child care provider. Each program specializes in treating sex offender groups based on particular variations reference the seriousness of the offense, risk factors to the youth and community, age, size, emotional stability and sophistication. This specialization process prevents "mixing young sex offenders with so called older, experienced sex offenders."

A court cannot commit a sex offender to any specific DJJ or privately operated facility or program. A judge will have the option to commit a sex offender to the Department of Juvenile Justice. An assigned local DJJ Juvenile Services Specialist will "recommend" possible placement considerations to the Centralized Intake/ Classification Branch of DJJ. This Branch will assess for placement each sex offender commitment utilizing a statutory sex offender assessment and the DJJ risk/needs classification instrument in conjunction with an evaluation of all dispositional 'materials and input from the DJJ Mental Health Services Section.

Throughout the short tenure of the Department of Juvenile Justice, the emphasis of balancing quality juvenile services with predictable and consistent sanctions has been the guiding force. A primary philosophy in conveying this message has been through proactive partnering with key publics, human services agencies, youth advocates, and the public at large. The Department of Juvenile Justice is available at a times to assist in informing accurately the citizens of the Commonwealth as well as all interested parties. It is discouraging when inaccurate information is communicated through a professional journal publication, knowing that the facts are easily accessible through the Department of Juvenile Justice. Perhaps more disheartening is the conveyance of descriptions as follows from pages 64 and 65:

a. The court could commit the child to the Department of Juvenile Justice as a sexual offender. 7his commitment will frequently mean that the child will be placed in one of Kentucky's residential treatment centers. The sexual offender treatment programs at these centers are generally very harsh, Juvenile in such programs frequently report that staff regards them only as offenders: moral reprobates who are unlikely to successfully return to society. Particularly where the offender is very young, placement in such a program with older, experienced sexual offenders is unlikely to benefit the child or the community and may prove not to be sexual offender treatment, but sexual offender training.

Such editorializing based on singular opinion or conjecture and not facts significantly erodes the progress the Department of Juvenile Justice has made in educating all constituents as to its mission, responsibilities, and functions.

Dennis Mahan, Deputy Commissioner
Department of Juvenile Justice
1025 Capital Center Drive
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-2638
Tel: (502) 573-2738; Fax: 573-4308.

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