Joint Jail Committee chooses consultant for in-depth study

Published 8:52 am Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Boyle Mercer Joint Jail Committee has chosen consulting firm Brandstetter Carroll to lead a $75,000 study of the Boyle County Detention Center. The choice must still be approved by fiscal courts in both counties.

The Joint Jail Committee made its decision unanimously Friday afternoon, after delaying a vote on the matter multiple times previously.

Boyle County Attorney Lynne Dean, a member of the joint committee, made the motion to choose Brandstetter Carroll over two other companies that had submitted proposals, HDR Inc. and CGL.

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“After much thought, it’s pretty close, but I think I would make a motion to go with Brandstetter Carroll because what it comes down to for me is that the person heading the project would also be living in Boyle County,” Dean said, referring to Brandstetter Carroll employee Monica Sumner, who attended Friday’s meeting. “… The fact that there would actually be one of our community members with a lot of involvement in the project — that’s what I like.”

Mercer County Judge-Executive Milward Dedman seconded the motion.

“I’ve had some communications with Monica. I think that she really understands where we want to go with this,” Dedman said. “It’s not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about other things and how we can take what we already have and try to improve upon that.”

Others on the committee said they agreed with Dean and Dedman.

“I have looked at this and I have gritted this out as best I could; they’re very close,” McKinney said of the choice between Brandstetter Carroll and HDR (CGL had previously been essentially eliminated from contention). “… I want to echo what you said: My sense of it is that Brandstetter Carroll understands better that this is less about bricks and mortar than it is about how we handle our inmate load over the long haul. But I do want to complement HDR … I thought we would be well-served with either one of them.”

Boyle County Jailer Barry Harmon said he believes Brandstetter Carroll will be “an excellent choice” and is “well-equipped” to provide the two counties with what they need. And the local connection is valuable, too, he added.

“Having that local finger on the pulse — if we raise taxes, hers goes up, too,” Harmon said.

At the end of the meeting, Sumner thanked the committee for its recommendation.

“I am humbled by your trust on this project,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working with you.”

The Joint Jail Committee plans to have Brandstetter Carroll on its agenda for its next meeting, 12 p.m. Nov. 7 in the Mercer County Fiscal Courtroom, to address what it believes are the first steps and offer its take on a recently completed study of the Boyle jail by the National Institute of Corrections.

When Brandstetter Carroll first presented to the joint committee in August, Sumner led off the presentation by describing the scenario Boyle and Mercer find themselves in with regard to the jail.

“The whole community, these two counties, everyone involved in this jail — you are a canoe in the ocean, you are lost at sea,” Sumner said at the time. “Everywhere you look, there’s a swell of water coming up. The faster you row, you still cannot see land … What we’re offering today is that we know how to get you to the beach — together.”

Brandstetter Carroll’s team features expert consultants Dr. Allen Beck and Dr. Kenneth Ray. Ray is a mental health and substance abuse expert, while Beck has a doctorate in criminal justice and has consulted on jail projects across the nation.

During the August presentation, Eric Chambers with Brandstetter Carroll held up one detention facility project the company worked on in Okaloosa, Florida, as an example of what the company can do. That facility is rated to hold 594 inmates, but was peaking at close to 900, Chambers said. Brandstetter Carroll’s study resulted in operational changes but no new construction; it resulted in the population dropping to near the rated capacity shortly after the study was completed, and down to below 500 three years after that, he said.

Chambers said the solution for Boyle and Mercer counties should not be “just build a bigger jail.” 

“Then we’ve addressed a need, but we haven’t addressed the problem,” he said.

The Boyle County Detention Center is rated to hold up to 220 inmates, but currently regularly exceeds 350. The jail population Friday was 362, Chief Deputy Brian Wofford said.