At least four times last year, 5-year-old children in Kentucky faced charges for alleged criminal mischief, harassment, abuse of a teacher and criminal trespassing, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. In all, 2,117 criminal charges have been filed against children 10 and younger in Kentucky since 2006. It’s a number that shocked Rep. John Tilley, chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee, who plans to hold hearings.
Unlike 16 other states, Kentucky puts no limits on the age at which a child may be charged. Kentucky prohibits placing children 10 and younger in a juvenile detention facility unless they are charged with a capital offense or one of the more serious felony charges. Children may be placed in state foster care while charges against them are pending. Patrick Yewell, who heads the Department of Family and Juvenile Services for the Administrative Office of the Courts, will ask legislators to enact a minimum age for criminal charges. “The earlier a child enters the juvenile justice system, the more likely he or she is to acquire an extensive juvenile record,” Yewell said. “Children in this age range have specific needs that may require interventions from early childhood specialists, social workers and mental health professionals.”