Front Page History: Mercer began using Boyle’s jail in 1982

Published 7:59 pm Monday, June 24, 2019

On this date 37 years ago, a front page news story described how Mercer County Fiscal Court had tentatively approved a contract to house its prisoners in the Boyle County Jail.

According to the news story, Mercer County was going to save more than $25,000 by accepting the arrangement with Boyle County, rather than continuing to operate its own jail. The cost savings would be through the elimination of salaries for jailer deputies, jail utilities, materials and supplies and meals for the prisoners.

Final approval was subject to Boyle County Fiscal Court to extend a 30-day cancellation clause in the contract to 90 days. Mercer’s magistrates decided 30 days was not long enough to make other arrangements for its prisoners should the contract be terminated by either Boyle or Mercer counties.

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It was also decided that if the contract was approved, Mercer County Jailer Cleo Baker would become the transportation officer who would take prisoners to the Boyle County Jail. His salary was to remain the same at $22,267 a year.

The story said Mercer County Judge-Executive I.C. James said the actual cost of operating its jail was about $58,261 per year, but that didn’t include the expense of renovating its jail to bring it up to safety standards or insurance coverage for the building.

The cost for Mercer when housing its prisoners in Boyle’s jail was estimated to be $32,805 per year.

Mercer Fiscal Court also agreed that it would purchase a used 1974 Chevrolet Suburban for use as a transportation vehicle for $1,850.

At the same time Boyle County voted to sign the contract with Mercer, members of the state’s Jail Standards Commission were inspecting four central Kentucky jails, including Boyle’s, which was one of the new jails in the state, and Mercer’s, which was one of the oldest. The commission’s tour was to acquaint them with the various types of jails in the state and to help them develop realistic standards.

The commission was an outgrowth of jail reform legislation that had passed earlier in the year. It was going to be responsible for drawing up standards that all state jails would have to meet. Boyle County’s Circuit Judge Henry V. Pennington was a member of that commission.

Another reason for the jail tours was because Kentucky was under a federal decree to lower populations at its adult male prison facilities. Building a new jail was an option, as well as converting the Danville Youth Development Center on Burgin Road into a federal prison. However, that would take several years, so one temporary option state officials were considering was to move some minimum security inmates to county jails.

Danville had already agreed to accept up to 12 state inmates; the contract with Mercer meant Boyle would have fewer beds available for state inmates.