Magistrates share concerns about hiring consultants

Published 8:32 am Thursday, October 12, 2017

Magistrates have concerns about future plans for the Boyle County Detention Center, and shared them during Tuesday’s Boyle County Fiscal Court meeting.

“This is the second year we’ve had this in our budget, to have a consultant look at our jail, look at our mental health situation, look at our everything that we’re trying to do as far as maintain the jail, and make some recommendations as far as what we need and how we proceed going forward,” said Judge-Executive Harold McKinney.

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The Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee approved a proposal to hire Brandstetter Carroll, a decision that had to be approved by the respective fiscal courts.

“It was approved unanimously,” McKinney said. “We are now seeking approval from the court to engage Brandstetter Carroll so we can get a blueprint on how we need to go forward.

“We know we need to do something at the jail. Hopefully, they can give us the best plan going forward.”

Magistrate Jack Hendricks said he agreed they needed a direction regarding the jail.

“I’ve got some real concerns about spending $75,000 for what we heard in the presentations at Mercer County during the meetings. Most of them — all of them, in fact,” Hendricks said.

He said his concern was that everyone wanted to implement new programs.

“Programs are great if we can get them done and get the judiciary system to go along with us,” Hendricks said. “At this point, I personally believe we have not gotten that cooperation. If we don’t get cooperation down the road, and hopefully, if these folks recommend it, maybe somebody will listen.”

Hendricks referred to the Shepherd’s House, an intensive outpatient program that accepts those leaving Boyle County Detention Center who want to continue receiving treatment for addiction. The facility opened in February. He said they were allowed 60 clients.

“We have had really good success in there,” he said. “We can have 60, but right now we have 36 total as of this morning. We’ve been begging to get to 40, we’re getting close. We’ve got 4-5 clients that are ready to go next week, if we get approval from the judges and the prosecutors.”

Filling that program, he said, would relieve the jail of 20 new inmates.

“If we don’t get the cooperation of these new programs, in my opinion, I don’t see that it’s worth spending $75,000,” Hendricks said.

He asked about a “preset bond,” which he said would allow inmates who qualify for a bond to have one automatically set based on the crime committed. This is one example of how the court system could help the overcrowded detention center, by removing some of inmates more quickly, he said.

“I understand the importance of getting a direction to go, but we’re going to have to have more than just programs. I know everybody loves it because they say programs instead of bricks and mortar,” Hendricks said. “Unfortunately, that may not be the case unless we get the support we’ve got to have to get these numbers down.”

The jail had 355 inmates as of Tuesday morning, said Deputy Jailer Brian Wofford. Hendricks pointed out that this was 135 more than the maximum number of inmates they were supposed to have.

Wofford agreed that there was no where in the facility to do programs.

McKinney said they had to look closer at what kind of “bricks and mortar” to build, at what was realistic for the two counties, and other factors.

“I understand your frustration, but if we don’t have a road map, if we don’t have something, I think we’re going to continue to flounder,” he said.

Hendricks admitted he didn’t like consultants, but said he realized this problem might be too big for the two counties to fix without some outside help.

“We need to find the problem and fix the problem,” he said.

Magistrate Patty Burke referenced a recent article in The Advocate-Messenger which talked about how often inmates are released — Boyle County had the lowest release rate in the state.

“It’s embarrassing, frankly, and it’s ridiculous. I’m very frustrated with this,” Burke said. 

Magistrate John Caywood said that could only be impacted with the support of the judges.

“The cost of this is tremendous,” he said. “And the cost of staff — we lose people because of overcrowding.”

Wofford said they replaced two staff members this week, who just couldn’t handle the pressure of overcrowding.

Hendricks said it’s not uncommon for the jail to house 45 inmates in a room the size of the fiscal court room, a statement Wofford agreed with.

“It’s a safety hazard. It’s a problem. Yes, we have got to go ahead and do this, I realize that,” Hendricks said. “We’ve got to give people some relief out there.”

Caywood asked how to change the minds of the decision-makers, to which McKinney said he didn’t have an answer.

“I have spoken with — I don’t want to throw our judges under the bus. They’re good, solid, honest judges,” McKinney said.

Caywood and Hendricks said that was not their intentions either.

“For what they have to do, they do an outstanding job,” Hendricks said.

McKinney said he had talked to the judges and they understood the issues facing the jail.

“I think we will get cooperation from them if we have a direction we want to go,” he said.

McKinney said it was important to remember that there were “a lot of things that go into the decisions that they make” from the benches, using a lot more information than the general public gets.

Magistrates said they realize there also has to be a willingness from the inmates to go somewhere like the Shepherd’s House, as there are some who qualify but are unwilling to go.

“We’re not going to help everybody. But if we help 30 percent. Let’s say 20 percent. That’s still huge numbers compared to what we have now, which is zero,” said Wofford.

Those who need help have to want the help, he said, in any case doing nothing won’t help.

“No matter what happens, we’ve got to do something at the jail,” McKinney said. “This isn’t going to go away.”

Wofford said there are some inmates who refer to going to jail as “going to school” because “they learn a better way to be a criminal.”

“And we need to learn a better way of getting them out,” McKinney said.

Magistrate Phil Sammons voted against the hiring of Brandstetter Carroll, while magistrates Burke, Hendricks and Dickie Mayes voted yes. Magistrate Donnie Coffman was absent due to illness.

In other business, the fiscal court: 

• Recognized Brad Ellis, director of the Boyle County EMS, who was named the EMS Director of the Year by the Kentucky Ambulance Providers Association.

• Recognized the Boyle County EMS for receiving the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline EMS Gold Award, for reaching and exceeding benchmarks involving cardiac arrest.

“The cardiac arrest stuff goes to Mike Rogers. Brandon Jenkins started it and Mike carried it on,” said Ellis, referring to education coordinator Mike Rogers.

• Remembered former magistrates who had passed away, including John Davis. Sammons shared information about Davis, whom he called “Cool Hand Luke,” because Davis always remained calm in meetings.

“He was loved by his district. He represented it well,” Sammons said. “My friend John will always be remembered.”