The Kentucky Post , February 13, 1999

Judge: Juvenile jail to stay open, for now
By John C. K. Fisher, Post staff reporter

U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman has ruled that the Kenton County Jail may keep its juvenile wing open at least until April 1.

But Bertelsman also gave opponents of keeping the juvenile jail open a victory by allowing them to act as monitors to ensure the safety of the youths being held there.

In an order released Friday, Bertelsman said after April 1, the juvenile jail can stay open on a month-to-month basis until a regional 52-bed facility opens in Newport about mid-July.

The Children's Law Center of Covington filed a lawsuit in 1991 over the lack of education, safety and recreation at the Kenton juvenile detention center. The state later agreed to build the new facility in Newport and shut down the Kenton County wing, which is part of the larger adult jail.

As part of the agreement to settle the lawsuit, the juvenile wing was to close by March 1. But the Newport facility is not scheduled to open until this summer.

The ruling to allow the juvenile wing to stay open was a victory for Kenton County officials, who otherwise would have been forced to pay about $75,000a month to send juveniles to other facilities in the state.

But Bertelsman also handed opponents a victory when he gave Kim Brooks, the executive director of the law center, authority to monitor the juvenile detention center and interview residents whenever she wants.

Ms. Brooks can ask to have the facility shut down if she finds intolerable treatment or conditions, Bertelsman said.

'If you object, come in with documentation,' Bertelsman said during a 25-minute hearing in Covington. 'If a kid has a burn from a stun gun, we should see it.'

Ms. Brooks has said she has received complaints from four juveniles that guards used stun guns on them.

The U.S. Justice Department has recently cleared the jail of one count of juvenile abuse. But a second case involving a youth who said he was shocked with a stun gun is being investigated.

Bertelsman told Ms. Brooks and her co-counsel, James Bell of the Youth Law Center in San Francisco, that they would need to find beds for any juveniles who want to be transferred.

Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson said he agreed with Bertelsman's ruling.

'He is very wise,' Edmondson said.

Both Edmondson and Ms. Brooks told Bertelsman they wanted to do what is best for the juveniles.

Edmondson said jail officials have complied with a court order that they could not hold a juvenile more than 15 days unless he is being tried as an adult.

He said jail officials have agre! ed to videotape disputes in the juvenile jail to protect themselves and the residents.

But Ms. Brooks, whose lawsuit was a contributing factor in the state setting aside money to build the juvenile justice center in Newport, said she had received complaints about poor treatment in Kenton County.

She said the juvenile jail in Kenton County had failed to provide proper recreation as Bertelsman required in a previous order.

'In some respects, these are direct violations of court orders,' Ms. Brooks said.

Kenton Judge-Executive Dick Murgatroyd, who took office in January, said after the hearing that he planned to work with Ms. Brooks and Edmondson to solve problems not only within the juvenile jail itself but also on the root causes of juvenile crime.

'We all need to sit down at a table for this,' Murgatroyd said. 'The key is education.'

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