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Recent Courier-Journal articles have said that Kentucky boasts one of the nation's highest rates of jailing youths for non-criminal acts.
Some counties, fortunately not Jefferson, rather routinely imprison so-called status offenders. Last year, Kentucky jailed more than 1,500 truants, runaways and other kids deemed out of control, which only adds insult to injury, advocates say, seeing as how many status offenders are victims of neglect, abuse and mental illnesses.
People within the child welfare movement blame such factors as an imprecise state law and frustrated parents, judges and others who don't know what else to do with repeat offenders other than jail them.
Not to minimize the challenges posed by status offenders, but 15-year-old Kalique Childs, of Covington, also has a point. She says that she's no longer the defiant, cigarette-smoking, curfew-breaking, truant who a judge found in contempt and ordered into custody. So far, Kalique has spent 11 months in a facility 125 miles from home. She and her parents, who initially sought the state's help in straightening out their daughter, now believe that Kalique's punishment, as is true for other status offenders, is excessive.
"I'm just a kid; I didn't kill anybody," Kalique said.
More broadly, if Kentucky persists in treating status offenders not much differently than youths found guilty of serious crimes like rape and murder, it's a safe bet that many status offenders in a few years will graduate to the big house.