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Justice Department to investigate Kentucky’s juvenile jails after use of force, isolation complaints

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Federal investigators will examine conditions in Kentucky’s youth detention centers and whether the state has done enough to protect juveniles housed there, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.

The federal investigation follows a Kentucky auditor’s report that said the state’s juvenile justice system had ongoing problems with the use of force and isolation techniques in the detention centers.

“We are launching this investigation to ensure that children in Kentucky youth detention facilities are safe from harm, receive adequate mental health care and get appropriate special education services,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement. “All children held in the custody of the state deserve safe and humane conditions that can bring about true rehabilitation and reform.”

The investigation will examine whether Kentucky protects the facilities’ juveniles from excessive force by staff as well as from prolonged isolation, violence and sexual abuse, the Justice Department said. A federal lawsuit filed in January alleged two teenage girls held in a county facility were kept in isolation cells for weeks in unsanitary conditions, and one was kept in a padded cell with no toilet.

Federal investigators also will examine whether Kentucky provides adequate mental health services and required special education and related services to youth with disabilities, it said.

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