Rotary report

Northpoint Training Center

By DAVE FAIRCHILD

Danville Rotary

Don Bottom, warden at Northpoint Training Center, was Danville Rotary’s speaker on June 9. Bottom has held progressive positions correctional complexes, since he graduated with a BA in Criminal Justice in 1993.  

His presentation highlighted the activities at Northpoint, with an emphasis on preparing inmates to successfully re-enter society as law abiding tax payers. Before commencing his remarks, he provided an overview of the institution he oversees.

Northpoint was originally constructed as a state mental hospital and in 1941, the U.S. Army assumed control to provide care for soldiers suffering from psychiatric illnesses. In 1946, the hospital was returned to the state for a total cost of $1. Kentucky operated the facility as a state hospital until 1977, when it began operation under the Bureau of Social Services. It was utilized as a youth center for juvenile offenders. In 1983, the Department of Corrections assumed control of the 551 acres property with 50 structures.  

Today, the institution operates as a medium-security institution with a capacity to house 1,256 inmates. The facilities are enclosed by a double 12-foot fence, with razor wire on the bottom and the top.  Sensors alert security in the event of an attempted breach, which alerts the control center and guards in the four armed wall towers.

“Thank you for allowing me to share with you a little bit about what’s happening at Northpoint.  Danville is known as the ‘City of Firsts,’ and I tell my staff that I want Northpoint to be an institution of Firsts, too. So in 2014, we were the first institution to open a veteran’s dorm. It is operated totally for the benefit of the veterans that are incarcerated. Representatives of the various veterans’ organizations come to provide counseling and other services. Prior to release, those organizations help them to find housing and employment.

“We also were the first in the state to include a prison fellowship program come into the facility.  It is a yearlong faith based program. In 2015, we opened a regional training program that provides training services at the institution, and saves the state $80,000 a year. We also created a Team Challenge Program operated under the auspices of the Bridges Program, which was originally created to help high school students Bridges is a special admissions program which was designed to assist high school students in making a successful academic transition to University life. Our Team Challenge program is focused on helping addicts learn how to live free from addiction. We also have the sex offender therapy program, the substance abuse program and more recognition therapy programs. In all, we have 28 therapy programs in which the inmates can participate. They all are design to improve the likelihood that our inmates will be successful in their return to society.

“I’m proud that these programs do not cost the tax payers anything. The funding comes from the proceeds of the inmate commissary. In fact, when we are successful, it saves tax payers’ money because the people become tax payers and do not return as inmates.

“Our education program is another we like to talk about. Northpoint led the state in the number of GEDs awarded, and our education department was ranked 24 in the whole state for achieving 25 percent of the goals. As a result of the vocational programs and GEDs awarded, in 2016 Northpoint save Kentucky roughly $260,000 in ‘bed days,’ because when inmates achieve an education goal, their incarceration days are reduced. This year we are on track to beat our 2016 results.

“I’m also proud of our staff, because we are the first correctional institution in the state to become a lifetime sponsor of the Correctional Peace Officers’ Foundation. That was accomplished by our staff raising $5,000 to contribute to the foundation. In 2015, I attended a conference in Pittsburg where all the family survivors of Correctional Peace officers who lost their lives in the line of duty are brought in for recognition. After that experience, I told my staff that I wanted us to be the first institution in the state to become a life time sponsor of that organization … and they made it happen through various fund raising activities.

“Our primary focus is on re-entry. We do that by helping them learn how to stay substance free, providing education opportunities and learning job skills in welding and electric trades and carpentry.  I want our inmates to go out and get a job. Then maybe I can get a raise.  Are there any questions?”

Questions posed to Warden Bottoms and answers follow: 

• How many inmates do not take advantage of the help programs? Fourteen percent. 

• What is your current recidivism rate? Forty percent. 

• What are the top offence categories? Drug and violence-related crimes. 

• Is the violence usually drug related? Yes.