Public meetings on Boyle-Mercer jail study planned for March

Published 8:48 am Monday, February 12, 2018

A study of how to improve Boyle and Mercer counties’ criminal justice systems is nearing the point when the public will be asked to give input.

Public meetings are expected to be held in both counties in early March — Boyle County’s public meeting is tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 5; Mercer’s is tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6. Locations for the meetings have not been finalized.

The meetings will be run by Brandstetter Carroll Inc., the company conducting an “inmate confinement and rehabilitation assessment and study” for the Boyle Mercer Joint Jail Committee.

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The meetings will include an overview of what the study is attempting to accomplish and why, and then “we want to hear from the public,” said Eric Chambers with Brandstetter Carroll.

“We want them to ask questions; we want them to tell us what they think about things so that we can also use that information as we (continue the study),” Chambers said.

Boyle and Mercer counties are paying $75,000 for the study, which aims to inform the counties on how they can address skyrocketing jail costs and inmate overpopulation, whether through external programs, changes in incarceration policies, construction of new jail facilities, added rehabilitation efforts or all of the above.

“There are probably people in that jail that do not need to be in that jail,” said Dr. Kenneth Ray, one of Brandstetter Carroll’s consultants, during a meeting with the Joint Jail Committee in November. “But for the philosophies and misunderstandings, sometimes just hard-headedness, of criminal justice players — and I see it every where I work … at some point, some of the change in your incarceration rates is going to require a change in how people view what a jail is for.”

Right now, Brandstetter Carroll is in an information-gathering phase of the study: It is conducting interviews with people who work in many different areas of the criminal justice system and collecting data on the jail’s populations.

One of the first tasks completed as part of the study is the formation of the Boyle-Mercer Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The 22-member council consists of representatives from a wide swath of organizations and public agencies involved in the criminal justice system. It will be instrumental in the development of an “action plan” — the final product of the Brandstetter Carroll study — for reducing recidivism, lowering inmate populations and improving inmate outcomes at the Boyle County Detention Center.

“You will be working with us as we begin to develop these options … it’s not a one-size-fits-all; it has to be tailored to what’s going on here,” Ray said at the first meeting of the CJCC in January. “This group here will … identify those options that you think will be meet the desired outcomes you want.”

Dr. Allen Beck, another Brandstetter Consultant, told the CJCC members in January that being transparent with the public about the study and getting “informed consent” from the communities served by the jail and criminal justice systems is essential for success.

“Informed consent means that the public is generally aware of what’s going on and they essentially support it, generally,” he said at the time. “Even if they don’t like it, they recognize that it’s a legitimate thing that’s got to be done.”

Chambers presented the Joint Jail Committee with a status report on the study Friday. Besides holding the first CJCC meeting, the report lists the following completed activities:

• “county population forecasts have been obtained from UK Cooperative Extension Services;”

• “uniform crime report data has been collected from the state and tabulated for analysis;” and 

• Brandstetter Carroll has interviewed all county magistrates, Public Defender Sarah Bryant, Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms, Assistant County Attorney Justin Johnson, Mercer County Sheriff Christopher Stratton, Danville Police Chief Tony Gray, James Hunn and Gary Chidester with the Hope Network, Shepherd’s House Director Roger Fox, Ephraim McDowell Chief of Nursing Mark Milner and Bluegrass Regional Mental Health Clinical Director Anna Duncan.

The report also lists several data requests Brandstetter Carroll has made and items it is waiting on, as well as plans for further interviews with Robbie Bickett with the Boyle County Public Defender’s Office, Kristin Harrod with the Kentucky Depart of Corrections Reentry Unit and at least five local defense attorneys, among others.

Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean said it seems like there are a lot of Boyle County people being interviewed by Brandstetter Carroll and not so many Mercer County people. He asked Chambers during Friday’s Joint Jail Committee meeting to tell Brandstetter Carroll he wants to see more Mercer interviews.

“Before you come up with a conclusion or a recommendation for a joint Mercer-Boyle county jail … you need to be talking to people in Mercer County,” Dean said. “These are two distinct counties with two different feels and two different sets of skill sets that we could bring towards this issue. I’d like for you to make that an effort because quite candidly unless I see that you all have attempted to do that, I’m really going to be questioning the recommendations that you have if it appears that all of your interviews are on that side of the county line except for my five magistrates.”

Chambers said he agreed with Dean and would relay his message to others at Brandstetter Carroll.


Boyle County’s public meeting concerning the Brandstetter Carroll jail study is tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 5; Mercer’s is tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6. Locations for the meetings have not been finalized.