Boyle jail should hire new employees immediately, magistrate says
Published 1:45 pm Friday, September 29, 2017
Boyle County Fiscal Court continued its pursuit of solutions for jail problems during its meeting this week.
Magistrate Jack Hendricks said he supports hiring additional full-time staff at the Boyle County Detention Center immediately in order to help ease the stress of running the overcrowded facility.
“We’ve got a serious enough situation out there that we’re going to have to take the bull by the horns and do something,” Hendricks said.
The Boyle County Fiscal Court approved having 46 jobs at the jail on April 25, including five part-time positions, Hendricks said. There are potential legal questions about when or how the jail could hire more people in excess of that number and what the fiscal court would have to do to authorize a larger number of employees.
But the jail hasn’t been able to fill the five part-time positions, which were designed to be on-call jobs, where the employees would fill in when additional jail staff are needed.
“People don’t want to just be on-call,” Hendricks said. “They’d rather have hours to work.”
Hendricks proposed that since the part-time positions can’t be filled, the jail could hire two full-time positions instead and remain within what the fiscal court authorized. Jailer Barry Harmon has said he could use four new full-time employees.
“I know we’ve got all kinds of legal questions and so forth, but it looks to me like if we can’t get part-time people … we need to go on and say, ‘OK, let’s add two more for now,’ and get our legal questions answered down the road for the other two,” Hendricks said. “I think we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do it now. We cannot keep kicking this can down the road. Somebody is going to get hurt out there.”
The fiscal court did not take any formal action concerning the jail staffing situation. The Boyle County Detention Center has a rated capacity of 220 inmates, but averages 350 or more, and has surpassed 400 more than once this year. Harmon said Tuesday Casey County Jail was holding 15 inmates for him to help reduce overcrowding.
Hendricks also questioned why enrollment in the Shepherd’s House intensive outpatient (IOP) program wasn’t higher.
The Boyle and Mercer fiscal courts created the IOP program earlier this year as a way to rehabilitate drug-users and reduce recidivism. Inmates at the Boyle County Detention Center, which serves both counties, can qualify to be released from the jail while they participate in the program. The program provides job training, counseling, support groups and more. Participants must find tax-paying jobs or participate in community service; and they are regularly drug-tested.
Hendricks said as of Tuesday, there were 18 Boyle County participants and 15 Mercer County participants in the program. The way the contract with Shepherd’s House works, the counties pay for 20 slots at a time, meaning once they surpassed 20 participants, they began paying for 40 participants, even if they don’t have that many, he said.
“We need to go on and get seven more people into this program as soon as possible,” he said.
Hendricks said he has been told there have been as many as 25 current inmates presented as people who would be eligible to participate, but they haven’t been released.
“I understand that is up to both county attorneys and the judge to finalize that,” he said. “But I would implore — please, let’s finalize this and get these people that are qualified to be in Shepherd’s House, let’s get them in there. We’re paying a lot of money for this program; it’s proven that it works.”
The contract with Shepherd’s House allows for a maximum of 60 participants at one time — another 20 above the 40 the counties are currently paying for.
“We’ve got 27 more positions that could be filled at Shepherd’s House if we could get this thing moving,” Hendricks said. “I don’t know what’s slowing it down, but whatever it is, it’s unacceptable. We’ve got to fix the problem, please.”
County Attorney Lynne Dean said later in the meeting that the numbers in the Shepherd’s House program will “ebb and flow a little bit” and right now it’s down somewhat.
“We are running a little low and that’s because we’ve had several people who have been remanded for non-compliance,” she said. “We’ve been running closer to 25 on the Boyle County side lately.”
Hendricks said he knows Dean’s office is “covered up” and she’s doing “everything you humanly can” to help with the drug epidemic.
“It’s just there’s a lot of other people involved and to get everybody together, it might take public meeting, it might take public reporting to get everybody to get on-board.”
Magistrate John Caywood brought up the recent jail study released by the National Institute of Corrections that found a variety of issues it recommended correcting at the jail.
“It’s not real pretty,” Caywood said of the report. “There’s some good things that came out of it, and there’s some not-so-good things that came out of it.”
Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said officials need to use the NIC report to guide them through the process of choosing a consultant company to develop a plan for renovating, expanding or rebuilding the jail.
“There are a lot of things in that NIC report that I think we can start working on” now, McKinney said.
McKinney added he believes both fiscal courts need to tour the jail facility. He said he believes the Boyle County Fiscal Court can tour the jail in numbers that represent a quorum without calling a special meeting.
“We can walk through the jail as a learning or training experience,” McKinney said. “Nothing is going to be brought before this fiscal court for a vote (during the tour).”
Dean said she is fine with that proposal.
“You all can’t make decisions … any of your discussions will have to take place in an open meeting,” she said.