Drug cases main focus of county attorney forum

Published 6:32 am Thursday, September 27, 2018

Boyle County’s drug epidemic was a reoccurring subject during Tuesday night’s forum for county attorney candidates.

Current county attorney Lynne Dean (D) and her opponent Chris Herron (R) agree that drugs have a lot to do with overcrowding at the Boyle County Detention Center

Dean referred to the recently released draft of a comprehensive jail study done by a professional consultant for Boyle and Mercer counties: “It does appear that some court processes may very well need to be changed,” she said.

Email newsletter signup

The county attorney’s office also “needs to continue what we’ve been doing for quite some time now, working together as a community to try to combat this drug epidemic,” Dean said. However, she added, “… sometimes, people just have to serve time in jail.”

Herron said the county’s drug problem and jail population “kind of go hand-in-hand, definitely.” He said Boyle County has 30 spots open at the Shepherd’s House, which is a non-residential addiction treatment program for men and women. Herron said those spots need to be filled. “That’s going to get a lot of the persons out of jail, clear up some beds out there.”

Herron added, “Also, we need to do better about setting bonds … Bonds are just so high.” He said people need to be held accountable for their crimes, “but we have to be sensible as well and be able to set bonds accordingly so that these persons get out of jail and be able to work … and be able to attend court.”

Lynne Dean

Dean thinks the county attorney’s office has changed for the better over the past few years. “I have been there first hand and seen how the drug epidemic itself has changed.”

“One way that I have personally changed the office is to basically plunge into the community efforts that are going on … to learn more about addiction and how the county attorney’s office can assist in those endeavors,” she said. “The county attorney, and I as county attorney, have really made significant strides in fighting the drug epidemic.” Dean said, “We have to continue to try and keep up with this drug epidemic.”

She spoke about the significant challenges the county attorney’s office is facing, including its changes concerning child support enforcement, which has also been affected by the drug epidemic.

Children are really being affected by the drug epidemic, Dean said. “Our caseload has increased exponentially and not just family court…but also in district court. There is a lot more work because of what’s going on.”

The office isn’t provided with funding to send people to rehabilitation programs, but “it would be fantastic if someone would be able in our office, to work with rehabilitation programs.”

She thinks the county attorney’s office will never be “adequately staffed with the funding available.” She said state government’s pension issues “has hit the county attorney’s office. The county helps us significantly. In the past few years, however, I have seen state efforts to push more costs to the county government.”

“Sometimes you just become more realistic when you’re experiencing things day in and day out,” Dean said, explaining there are many things she wants to do as county attorney, but finding the time “is a challenge.”

Dean said her office dealt with 736 misdemeanor cases, 527 felony cases and 1,341 traffic cases in 2017. In addition, she and her office serves as the main legal advisor for the county and fiscal court; it drafts ordinances, reviews contracts and provides legal advice to the jail and judge-executive.

Chris Herron

Herron said a major goal if he is elected county attorney would be to keep the Shepherd’s House treatment program slots full. He said to do this, the county attorney needs to work with the jailer “hand-in-hand” and deal with the inmates on a “one-on-one basis.” He said the inmates need to “know that we care about them and we don’t want to see them dead or back again.”

Herron said he also thinks having the county attorney go to the jail and talk with the inmates, “might motivate them to go to rehab,” possibly at the Shepherd’s House.

Herron also suggested the possibility of using county attorney funds for early intervention programs in the schools systems. He said children need to be educated about the dangers of drug use “before they become drug users … We really need to look into tackling this drug problem.”

Herron said he is seeing younger and younger children in trouble with the law because of their drug addictions and “that worries me to death.” Herron said he wants to try and help these children before they reach adult age of 18 and end up in the district court system.

“We really need to help them at this young age before it’s too late, because it is not too late. We need to get them into treatment … educate their parents to help help them.”

Herron thinks the county attorney’s office has changed, especially within the past two years, by not being as approachable as it used to be. “It’s hard to be able to talk to people and get things done,” Herron said.

He thinks the changes in the county attorney’s office is also reflected in the jail system.

“There’s more and more people that have been put in jail, and not that that’s a bad thing, but … there’s more and more drugs on the streets … I think that without rehab, and things like that, those people are going to continue to stay in jail, and come back again and again once they’re released. So it’s changed for that reason.”

Herron thinks the county attorney’s office is adequately staffed, “but I do feel that to properly run the office, everyone in the office needs to be trained appropriately … to be more efficient in the office.”