Leaders discuss the need for a new jail

Published 4:00 pm Friday, March 22, 2024


Boyle County Judge Executive Trille Bottom and Jailer Brian Wofford spoke at a KY Women’s Network Boyle Chapter meeting on March 12 to inform the public about the current state of the Boyle County Detention Center and plans to construct a new jail.

Wofford explained that not only is the detention center in disrepair, suffering from issues like leaks in the roof, but that there are issues with overcrowding and understaffing.

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“The way the building is designed there are a lot of blind spots, it is just not efficiently built,” Wofford said. “It takes a lot of staff to run. A new building could save money in the long run by reducing the staff you need to run a shift.”

Wofford said that since the pandemic, the jail has seen a large influx of inmates suffering from mental health issues. A new facility would be properly equipped to give those inmates the help they need.

“I would say we are the largest mental health facility in the county,” Wofford said. “They get arrested then end up getting dropped off here. The jail is not equipped for mental illness, but we make do. We have professionals come in three days a week to meet with inmates. We need spaces to provide treatment, we just don’t have space. We have people working out of closets. The jail is dark, there is no natural lighting. There is nothing conducive to getting better in the jail now.”

The Boyle County Detention Center was built in 1998 with some parts such as the laundry area dating back to the 1950s. A location for a new jail has yet to be found. Wofford explained that it is estimated that renovating the jail and bringing it up to modern standards would cost three times as much as a new building. In addition, there would be the added cost of housing inmates during construction.

Judge Bottom explained that in 2018, a jail study was conducted that determined that a 300-bed facility would cost around $35 million. In today’s money that would be a cost of $50 million if not more, which would max out the county’s bond capabilities.

“It is hard to decide what to do,” Bottom said. “If we need other structures built like a public safety structure then we would have no bonding capacity to do that. We have not been able to find suitable land. You have to avoid proximity to houses and subdivisions.”

Currently, the Mercer County Joint Jail Committee provides roughly one-third of the jail’s funding but that will end in July of this year. In addition, a bill currently proposed in the Kentucky House of Representatives would create a moratorium on constructing any detention center in the state except regional facilities.

“There are lots of obstacles and things to think about.” Bottom said. “Next year will be a test year for the jail budget to see revenues and expenses. We won’t decide in the next year because we need to see how the budget pans out.”

Wofford and Bottom have said they would appreciate ideas and support of citizens in finding a building site for the new jail. Wofford is offering tours of the jail, so the public can learn about the pressing need for a new jail.

To sign up for a scheduled tour, people can contact Capt. Danny Sallee (859) 238-1100 Ext. 155.  Tour dates will be announced on the Boyle County Detention Center Facebook Page and the Fiscal Court website.