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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

A call for greater focus on youth justice in Kentucky

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Monday, September 25, 2023   

The number of children behind bars in Kentucky has declined significantly in recent years, but their advocates said more work could be done to create effective alternatives to incarceration.

The one-day count of detained youths in 2021 was nearly 25,000 nationwide, which is a 60% decrease over the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Josh Rovner, director of youth justice for The Sentencing Project, said while the trend is positive, it should not be expected to continue. He pointed out at least part of the decrease was because of the pandemic.

"When you think about the things that kids get arrested for, it's often school-based referrals," Rovner observed. "And if virtual school is happening, then kids aren't going to be referred by their school resource officers. They're not going to be shoplifting if all the stores are closed, they're not going to be getting into fights if they're all staying at home."

A one-day count in 2019 found almost 600 kids under 18 in detention facilities in Kentucky. By 2021, the number had dropped to about 300. Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed young people released from correctional confinement have high rates of being rearrested.

Research has shown children who are incarcerated often experience significant long-term consequences, which Rovner noted persist into adulthood.

"Whether there's one child who is locked up -- or 10,000 or 100,000 -- it's important to realize just how toxic these facilities are for kids," Rovner contended. "They have much worse outcomes, not only on their education and career achievements, but also much more likely to reoffend."

Recognizing the adverse effects, experts and activists are asking for a more compassionate approach to juvenile justice. Reforms focusing on rehabilitation and community-based support systems have proven to be more effective in addressing the underlying issues than locking juveniles up.


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