State To Close Detention Center Where Gynnya McMillen Died

Print More

handout / Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice

A room in the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

State officials are closing the juvenile detention center where 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen died last year.

Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Hardin County will be closed in mid-June and its staff moved to other facilities, the state Department of Juvenile Justice announced Wednesday in a news release.

Agency spokesman Mike Wynn said recent reforms have lowered the number of youth in facilities like Lincoln Village, which is operating at less than half of its 44-bed capacity.

Activists called for the state to shut down Lincoln Village in early 2016 after Gynnya was found dead in her room.

Authorities took Gynnya to Lincoln Village the day before she died. She refused to remove her sweatshirt during the booking process and several staffers immobilized her via an Aikido-style restraint, a move that later came under great scrutiny.

Gynnya’s death was not mentioned in the DJJ press release about the closure. When asked if it was a factor in closing Lincoln Village, Wynn said the decision was based on operations and staff recruiting issues.

The closure comes amid a state legislative push to detain fewer youths.

“As a result, out-of-home placements are down roughly 40 percent, and many of Kentucky’s short- and long-term facilities are routinely operating well below capacity,” Wynn said.

An autopsy found that Gynnya died of a rare heart condition known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia. DJJ officials said in January they took numerous steps to improve conditions at Lincoln Village after Gynnya’s death put a spotlight on staffing issues.

Activists from Louisville’s Black Lives Matter Movementand the Color of Change praised the closure Wednesday.

“These conditions underscore why this 200-year-old failed model of youth incarceration should be dismantled and replaced with community-based, non-residential services and programs for youth in their homes and communities,” said Color of Change’s senior campaign director Scott Roberts in a statement.

A state internal investigation also faulted six employees for failing to do regular bed checks and for falsifying departmental logs. Three were fired.

Two of those employees, Reginald Windham and Victor Holt, are awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of official misconduct.

Gynnya’s family filed suit in federal court last August, alleging DJJ negligence contributed to Gynnya’s death.

This story has been updated.

Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546.