Joint jail committee working to improve contract

Published 8:30 am Friday, August 28, 2020

The Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail committee, which oversees the finances of the Boyle County Detention Center, is still functioning as usual while at the same time it’s studying how to improve the more than 20-year agreement between the two counties.

At the regular Boyle Fiscal Court meeting on Tuesday, the court approved its annual ratio payment contract with Mercer, where Boyle will carry 71% of the cost of running the jail and Mercer will put in 29%. Boyle has the majority of the cost because it has the most inmates in the jail.

The court also voted to accept the per diem rate of $40 that inmates are charged while incarcerated once they’re released.

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“I really believe we have a very cordial and working relationship with Mercer County officials,” said Boyle Judge-Executive Howard Hunt.

“We’re trying to go through the 20-plus year agreement and find places to maybe make changes to address and alleviate the jailer’s concerns that he has about the joint jail committee impeding his constitutional obligations.”

In late July, Jailer Brian Wofford announced he was no longer going to be involved with the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee because the interlocal cooperation agreement signed 23 years ago violates Kentucky law and sets up himself and the county for a lawsuit.

Wofford said he is a constitutionally elected officer therefore he has constitutional responsibilities for the jail and its inmates. “Two fiscal courts cannot legislate my constitutional office.”

For example, he said in the KRS (Kentucky Revised Statutes) “The constitution clearly states that we have to provide mental health services to inmates.”

But last year during budget discussions, the two Mercer County joint jail committee members “didn’t want us to have the mental health services part of it.”

Wofford said he had reviewed the contract, which was written and signed in 1997 by the two counties, and the governor. He also had attorneys for the Kentucky Jailers Association and Boyle County Attorney Chris Herron read the document, and they all agreed, “There’s some big issues with the contract,” Wofford said.

Attorneys for the Kentucky Association of Counties and the Kentucky Jailers Association will be meeting with the joint jail committee and the jailer to answer questions concerning the original contract on Sept. 1, Hunt said.

“They won’t take one side or the other,” he said. But they will be on hand to answer the jailer’s concerns and the committee’s questions about the document, he added.

Then he added, “If it can be made better, we’ll make it better.”