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Primary Profiles 2018: Hardin, Douglas run for jailer nomination

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of stories from The Advocate-Messenger looking at every contested local race on the May 22 primary ballots. Check back tomorrow for a look at the Democratic candidates for Boyle County Jailer. 

Two Boyle County natives are running in the primary for on the Republican ballot for Boyle County Jailer.

LeeRoy Hardin, former Boyle County sheriff, and Rita Douglas, wife of Junction City Mayor Jim Douglas, are seeking the Republican nomination. They will run against Democratic candidates Bobby J. Potts, Brian Wofford or Dewayne Taylor in November’s general election. Incumbent Barry Harmon is not seeking reelection.

LeeRoy Hardin

Hardin is a Boyle County native, graduating from Boyle County High School. He graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a degree in criminal justice and spent 23 years in law enforcement.

He and his wife Cheryl have two children and one grandchild.

“I want to make sure things are safe for him and everybody,” Hardin said of his grandson. “If you help two, you’ve made a difference.”

Hardin was an officer at the Junction City Police Department from 1987-1990, before working as a Boyle County Sheriff’s Deputy from 1990-2003. In 2003, he was elected sheriff, a position he held until 2009.

Hardin

Hardin said he felt that there was a lack respect in the world, a respect that can and should be extended to those who are incarcerated.

“Just be nice. That’s what I see a lot of out there — people have forgotten how to be nice … I believe everybody’s the same, I don’t care what party you are, if you are rich or poor, or black or white, the laws are set up for everybody,” Hardin said. “Just because this person’s in jail doesn’t make him less of a person than me or you. He’s just down on his luck. He needs someone to help him.

“You can’t  just put him in that jail, lock him up and say ‘Hey, you’ve been sentenced by the court, I ain’t worrying about you.’ It doesn’t work that way.”

Hardin said his approach to inmates would be similar to his approach when he served as sheriff — he would just talk to people.

“Many times, when I was in the sheriffs office, when I went on a call or I saw someone was having problems, I would sit down and talk to them. ‘Why am I having to come out here? Why are you not doing what you’re supposed to?’ A lot of it is self-esteem,” Hardin said. “That’s all someone wants you to do, they want to talk to you. I may not be able to answer your question, but I’ll listen. I’ll try to help you.”

He said he wants the inmates to know they can talk to him, too. “That’s where we fail. We push them aside,” Hardin said.

He said it’s important to remember how the office is filled — by voters — and how it can be filled by someone else in the next election. “They put you in there, they can put you out … We work for them,” he said.

And to the voters, Hardin said, “You need to put the right people in there that want to work together. Everybody has to work together, put their titles aside and get one thing accomplished.”

He said his experience in the sheriff’s office has taught him a great deal about working with budgets, on policies and procedures and the other ins and outs of running a county department.

Despite his past in the sheriff’s office, Hardin said being at the jail would be a slightly new experience, and there will be some things he will have to learn.

“It’s better 15 heads than one. Just because you’re in charge, doesn’t mean you know everything — whoever walks into that jail is going to have to work with the people who are in there,” he said.

He’s concerned about the idea of building a new jail, because of the cost to taxpayers. “You’ve got to take care of the place you’re in.”

The rate of repeat offenders is a big problem and something he wants to work on; he also wants to look at the policy for when families bring money for their loved ones to use while incarcerated, known as the canteen. Hardin said he has been told that only about half of that money makes it to the inmate for whom it is intended, which he doesn’t agree with, the rest is taken in the form of a fee.

“I don’t think that’s right at all,” he said. Hardin said he understands a fee occasionally, but doesn’t agree with taking out one every time.

Hardin said another important aspect to him is his faith in God, which is why he would encourage programs from church groups.

“It’s hard to get away from being a cop for 23 years. I’ve got the experience and the training, I think I can do it,” Hardin said. “That’s why I want to run … I want to run to make a difference in my community.”

Rita Douglas

Douglas is a Junction City native and a graduate of Boyle County High School.

“I’ve lived here, raised my family here, worked here and I’m still here,” Douglas said.  She and husband Jim have two sons and three granddaughters.

“I’ve retired here and I love Boyle County.” She said that’s why she wanted to run for jailer, because she loves Boyle County and she believes she can help.

Douglas

Douglas spent about 12 years working at Northpoint Training Center. There, she was a correctional unit administrator, which she said was a supervisor position and placed her over about 500 inmates a day, along with 12-18 staff members.

“It was very challenging and I loved the challenge,” Douglas said. “It was like a whole new city you go in and work with everyday … I had a lot of responsibilities.”

Douglas was there during the 2009 riot.

“I had an experience a lot of people probably never will and I hope they don’t.”

Douglas has also worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“I like to see people change … It’s something different everyday that you deal with,” she said. “It’s more than just turning a key and keeping them in. It entails a lot more.”

Crimes, she said, have evolved into addiction and mental health issues, which will have to be managed and treated, so that people are less likely to return.

She believes overcrowding is a big issue — it limits what programs can be offered, she said, and impacts the inmates because they aren’t getting the help they need. She has a plan to introduce more programs, specifically ones to encourage family engagement, which Douglas said is important for inmate morale, and on life skills and coping mechanisms.

She believes that her past experience qualifies her to serve as jailer.

“I want to try it and see if I can do it — I know I can do it. I know I can make a difference,” she said.

“When I read the problems the jail was having and heard the problems the jail was having, I thought, ‘I need to help.’ I want to help. … I have the education, experience and drive to make a positive difference and to resolve many of the current issues at the Boyle County Detention Center. I am the right woman with the right experience,” she said. “I know I can make a difference.”