Joint Jail recommends creating ‘criminal justice coordinating committee’
Published 1:05 pm Thursday, November 9, 2017
The Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee has recommended the creation of a “criminal justice coordinating committee” to help reshape how the Boyle County Detention Center operates.
The committee would be made up of a cross-section of people from throughout the criminal justice system, from law enforcement to jail staff to attorneys, as well as local elected officials.
Forming the committee is the first recommendation from Brandstetter Carroll, a consulting firm retained by the Joint Jail Committee to produce an “inmate confinement and rehabilitation study” that could result in a transformation in how Boyle and Mercer counties run their jail.
“You need to get started on this one soon,” said Dr. Allen Beck, a consultant with Brandstetter Carroll, during Tuesday’s Joint Jail Committee meeting.
Boyle County Treasurer Mary Conley was already on top of the idea — she had a list of possible committee members already typed up. She asked if the Joint Jail Committee would consider recommending the creation of the new committee without delay.
“I’m asking because I’m excited about moving this along and I think it’s important to start doing … the first step,” she said. “… I would even be willing to make phone calls to ask these people to join us.”
As approved by the Joint Jail Committee following further discussion, the committee would have the following members:
• both judge-executives, county attorneys and jailers from Boyle and Mercer counties;
• one magistrate each from Boyle and Mercer;
• Jarod Thomas, a representative for non-residential treatment services;
• Warren Lambert from Probation and Parole;
• Robbie Bickett, a social worker with the public defender’s office;
• Sarah Bryant, an attorney with the public defender’s office;
• Sally Davenport, CEO of Ephraim McDowell Health;
• one representative each for the Boyle and Mercer agencies for substance abuse policy;
• Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms;
• victim’s advocate Carrie Lamb; and
• representatives for the larger law enforcement agencies in Boyle and Mercer counties.
Conley said she was unable to get Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler on-board with the idea of having a judge on the committee.
“He said he wouldn’t allow (local judges) to serve, but I told him I would like to keep them in the loop,” Conley said. “So he said as we go through the process, he would be interested in any information that was created through this group.”
Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney asked if there was a chance someone from Peckler’s office could simply attend the committee meetings.
“He was pretty adamant that there would be no (participation),” Conley said. “… He thought it was putting he and his office in a possibly litigious situation. If something happened, that he didn’t want to have to be sued and be sitting on a committee that would get sued. I didn’t quite understand.”
Conley said Peckler “made a blanket directive” for all local judges that they could not participate.
Boyle County Attorney Lynne Dean said she would speak with Peckler further about the possibility of involving judges in the committee.
“I think it’s worth having additional conversation,” she said. “If nothing else, understanding the specific concerns that he may have.”
Beck told Joint Jail members he has seen criminal justice coordinating committees — or CJCCs — formed three ways: with a judge sitting on the committee, with a judge attending for informational purposes but not as an official member, and “I’ve seen where they’re not around much at all.”
After the Joint Jail Committee voted to recommend creation of the committee, Boyle County Magistrate Jack Hendricks, who attended the meeting as a member of the public, rose to speak.
“Forming a committee is all great. We’ve got committees coming out the ying-yang,” he said. “But if we don’t have a committee that’s got the people that are really going to control this as a member, personally, I think we’re wasting our time.”
“If we don’t have anybody from the Department of Corrections, the Department of Justice, not judge, no circuit, no district — nobody involved (from) the people that are going to control what Brandstetter Carroll tells us we need to do, I think we’re spinning our wheels,” Hendricks continued. “We need to get those folks involved, and if they don’t want to get involved, we’re in trouble already — before we even started.
“I think committees are great, but committees just to meet and talk about things we can’t control is a waste of time. We need people that can control the issues in order to make the committee work.”
Dean reiterated that she would have a conversation with Peckler about the committee.
“I’m going to see a) can we make that happen? If we can’t make that happen, I’d like to know why, so that I can be able to articulate that and give everybody explanation,” Dean said. “There may be a very reasonable explanation for it. Or how do we make it happen if it can happen? I don’t know that I’ll have all the answers by our fiscal court meeting (Nov. 14) but I’ll certainly have some preliminary information.”
McKinney said Hendricks’ point was “well-made, but we’ve got to also think about — we have to play the cards we’re dealt.”
McKinney said there are lots of regulations and practices at the state level that local officials simply cannot control.
“Within that context, we’ve got to be able to consider and monitor: What can we do? And are we doing it?” he said. “… If we don’t identify where we are within this much larger context, I don’t think we’ve got any choices. … We’re dealing with a tough situation here. It’s very tough. I do think that we need to get this together and figure out where we are within the context of the cards we’ve been dealt.”
If the Boyle and Mercer fiscal courts approve creation of the CJCC, it would begin meeting in coordination with Brandstetter Carroll, which would guide the meetings.
The two counties are paying Brandstetter Carroll $75,000 to complete its study, which will assess the current status of the incarceration and what programs could be implemented to reduce recidivism, improve rehabilitation, control jail costs and shrink the overall population.
The Boyle County Detention Center has a rated capacity of 220 beds, but regularly has many more than 350 inmates and has topped 400 inmates multiple times this year. The overcrowding has coincided with skyrocketing jail costs, perhaps most notably in the area of health care, which is expected to rise by at least $115,000 in cost this year alone.
Chief Deputy Jailer Brian Wofford shared a small bright spot with Joint Jail members Tuesday — the population was at 351 Tuesday morning.
“We’ve been at 351 for probably the past two weeks, which is the lowest we’ve been in a couple years,” he said.
According to a jailer’s report generated Nov. 6, almost 75 percent of the inmates that day were recidivated — they had previously been jailed and were in jail again on new offenses. The recidivism rate for males only was almost 71 percent; the recidivism rate for females was about 88 percent.