District 4 magistrate candidates focus on jail, marijuana

Published 6:18 am Saturday, October 6, 2018

All three candidates for magistrate in Boyle County’s District 4 agree it’s time for the local courts to change how they use financial bonds to hold defendants in jail.

The three candidates were asked during a public forum Thursday night if they agreed with giving defendants financial bonds, which research has shown occurs more frequently in the local court system than anywhere else in Kentucky.

Independent challenger Joe Lamkin said, “There’s other ways to take care of the situation.” He said more rehabilitation centers need to be utilized and inmates should be taught job skills. Employers also need to be convinced to hire rehabilitated inmates, he said. “I have seen it work in other states.”

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Republican challenger Jason Cullen said he didn’t agree at all with the use of financial bonds. “It goes to show the disfunction we have in Boyle County between fiscal court, the city and the judges … We have to press the judges that we have here in any way possible and come on board and realize that trying to get money out of people who don’t have money, it’s only going to make the issue worse … Rehabilitation is great, but we really have to get these judges to step up and actually be part of the solution and not part of the problem.” He said if he has to go to Frankfort every day and lobby to get their attention “with our judges and see the problem that we have with our judge, then that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Incumbent Democrat Jack Hendricks said he does not agree with the high rate of financial bonds. “It highlighted where the problem was” in the criminal justice system, he said. But “you don’t tell the circuit judge or the district judge what to do” — the fiscal court doesn’t have the ability to tell a judge what to do, he explained.

“Until the judicial system in Frankfort steps in, we personally cannot make the judges do anything. However, we can steer it in that direction because this publicity we’ve got is helping … I think you will see a change coming.”

Lamkin said officials need to communicate with the judges. He said the judges are going to follow the rules set by legislation. “The county attorney can’t change it. the judge can’t change it. The only ones that’s going to change it is the people, making those gripes to their legislators.”

Thursday’s forum was organized by the Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, with support from The Advocate-Messenger and WHIR AM 1230. District 4 includes a large area in southeast Boyle County.

In his opening statement, Lamkin said there are things in county government that need to be prioritized and focused on more.

“We need to get rid of some of the nonsense of doing the good ol’ boy system year after year year and focus on working to  bring jobs back to this community,” he said.

Water and sanitation issues need to be worked on jail overcrowding must be addressed, he said.

Cullen said he has a vested interest in the success of this community because he is a small business owner and father of seven. He said to move the county forward, he believes in strict budgeting and planning for the future. “This community currently faces very tough and challenging issues. Many of these issues are the direct results of those who sit on fiscal court today.”

Hendricks said he has been a magistrate for the past eight years and handled multi-million dollar budgets when he was operations manager at United Parcel Service. He said he helped to make the Veterans Wall at the Boyle County fairgrounds. In 2010, he first ran for magistrate, and after his first term “there was so much left undone, I decided to run for another one. Now I find there is still so much more to do. That is why I am seeking a third term.” Hendricks said his experience on fiscal court will be critical in the upcoming years.

The first question posed by moderator Hershel McKinley was about legalizing medical marijuana.

Hendricks said the more that the more that is learned about medical marijuana, “I’m starting to lean in that direction.” He said he knows a lot of veterans are helped by using it. “I still think the jury is out … on the sound use of it. As soon as I see strong evidence, I could move very easily for it.”

Lamkin said “At this time I do not.” He said with the overcrowding of the jail because of drug problems, he believes medical marijuana would lead to more people being sent to jail. He believes “other medical means of treating those folks” should be used.

Cullen said he favors letting physicians decide the legalization of medical marijuana. “On the same subject, l’m more inclined to push the assembly to get hemp on board. A product that could really, really help our state. Its uses are invaluable.”

McKinley asked each candidate what was the most critical policy change the fiscal court must make to face the future effectively.

Cullen said the jail is where the biggest policy change needs to be made. “We’ve thrown a lot of money that way with very little results,” and it’s still overcrowded, he said. “That jail was never meant to be a long-term jail … we try to find Band-Aids, and not  permanent solutions.”

Hendricks said one of the major issues is rehabilitation of inmates. But there is no simple solution. He said the jail was built 25 years ago and once it’s paid off in February, the county will be able to move forward in deciding how to handle the issue.

Lamkin agreed and said the jail situation is the biggest problem to face. “Number one, we need to get judges on board.” Inmates need to be sent to rehabilitation centers. That’s how to get the drug addicts off the streets, which would ease jail overcrowding, Lamkin said.

Addressing an apparent lack of funding for workforce development in the Economic Development Partnership’s budget, Cullen said, “It’s a shame to see that go by the wayside.” He doesn’t “buy into” EDP’s budget shortfalls. He said Boyle needs to utilize Bluegrass Community and Technical College for workforce development.

Hendricks said workforce development “is the only avenue to getting our people back to work. If we don’t have workforce development, we’re going to continue to see not enough people to fill the jobs we’ve got, much less get new factories.”

Lamkin said county needs to prioritize its spending.

The biggest issue the county will be facing is the jail, Hendricks said. “Until we get that particular issued settled, it will stay at the top of the list.”

Lamkin said the biggest issue facing the district is the drug problem and jail overcrowding. He said rehabilitation and treatment should be used to help the overcrowding.

Cullen said the jail problem is due to people from other counties coming into Boyle, buying drugs and getting arrested. The issues he sees in District 4 are water issues, road improvements and traffic, especially on Ky. 52, where a new distillery plan is in the works.

In closing, Lamkin said he is a veteran and knows how to balance budgets and get leadership to work together and be accountable for their decisions.

Cullen said an interpreter for members of the deaf community should have been available during the forum because it was a “job interview” for everyone to be able to learn where the candidates stood on issues. He also encouraged voters to learn about the candidates and choose “who is best for the job” to move the county forward.

Hendricks said if elected, he would be able to “hit the ground running,” since he is the incumbent and has experience with the local government. He said he has a proven record and works to save the taxpayers’ money.