Fiscal Court approves tentative housing contracts for inmates
STANFORD – The Lincoln County Fiscal Court continues to explore options when it comes to choosing a place to send inmates, as the Lincoln County Regional Jail is tentatively set to close June 1.
That’s a loose deadline, according to Lincoln County Judge-Executive Jim Adams, who said there are still multiple issues left to be worked out before the jail can officially close.
Where to house inmates is the first priority of the fiscal court but much of Tuesday morning’s meeting discussion centered around how to get the inmates there.
Tentative contracts with Casey, Pulaski and Wayne County to house Lincoln County inmates have now been approved. Each contract requires Lincoln County to pay the state per diem rate which is $31.34 per inmate per day.
The fiscal court voted to close LCRJ due to severe under-staffing and issues with reliable hiring.
The state Department of Corrections requires the jail to have four employees working per shift and according to Jailer Rob Wilson, LCRJ is struggling to maintain three per shift.
State inmates have already been moved out of LCRJ and Garrard County inmates are expected to be moved to Jessamine County next week, Wilson told magistrates Tuesday.
Lincoln County Daryl Day advised magistrates to contract with multiple surrounding counties so that if one jail is full or closer, it would make transporting inmates easier and take less time away from officers on duty. It would also help the fiscal court fulfill their legal obligation to provide housing for inmates.
“We’re going to have to have several different locations for obvious reasons; one is the convenience for us, it’s more efficient. The second is, what if Wayne or Pulaski can’t take them? We have to have some place to go,” Adams said Tuesday. Magistrate David Faulkner asked who determines which jail to transport someone who’s just been arrested.
“I think at that point it’s probably the arresting officer, would be free to go to whatever county you have a contract with,” Day said. “…I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a contract with Casey, have a contract with Boyle, have a contract with Jessamine. It’s going to be hard on me, it’s going to be hard on the court system because we’re going to have to be logging in and getting people brought from multiple jails – that’s something we’re going to have to deal with over time. I still think you need contracts with multiple jails, from an efficiency standpoint…”
Wilson said about four years ago LCRJ had contracts with Madison, Pulaski, and Rockcastle counties to house their inmates for up to three days before beginning to charge them per day. Wilson said that’s something the county could include in their contracts with other counties for housing Lincoln County inmates.
Much of Tuesday’s debate was about whether to hire transport officers and keep officers on the street or have arresting officers make their own transports to whichever jail is closest and can take the inmates.
Wilson said he wants to do as much of the transports he can but there are some nights when officers arrest five to six people a night and he may already be tied up on a transport.
Magistrates discussed hiring additional court security officers who could also serve as transport officers and split the time.
The Administrative Office of the Courts will pay up to $10 an hour for court security. The fiscal court could then pay additionally to have the court officer transport inmates when not in court. That was another option the fiscal court was looking into, Adams said.
“But understand, the positions you have now are just enough to cover the bailiff duties at that buildings,” Day said. “I was just doing the math; there’s at least three and if they have multiple courts going on you may have four or five of those guys that are on duty at any given time at the courthouse. To have four on duty 40 hours a week takes 693 hours. We’ve approved for basically 700 hours…”
Day said the convenience factor goes away with that option.
“What we really need to do…since we have six judges that have court here, we need to push AOC to approve us for more court bailiffs. Then we need to use those hours in such a way that we have them for transports at least a certain number of hours a day, maybe from 4 to 8 in the afternoons,” he said. “We’ve got to get creative with how we come up with the time for this because if not, you’re going to have to employ two or three, maybe four people just to cover this and we’re back to it’s costing us a whole lot of money because you’re also going to have automobiles, gas expenses, things like that.”
Magistrate David Faulkner said the housing is the easy part.
“That’s the easy part. We can find multiple places to take them,” he said. “It’s the transport that’s the problem. The easiest thing by far is that the arresting officer does the transport…it’s the least expensive of the options we’ve looked at. Does that put a burden on the city police, sheriff’s office and state police department? Yes. Maybe we need to find a way to help out those entities…we’re really getting into a mess trying to decide who’s going to do what and how many hours you’re going to work.”
Faulkner asked if they could have somebody on stand-by for transport.
“The state is going to tell you you can’t do that,” Day said. “You can’t have somebody sitting at home and you only pay them when you call and need them and they sit at home for 12 hours a day and get nothing for it…if you have them sitting at home for 24 hours, the state is going to tell you you have to pay them. If they’re on call, a duty of their job is to be available as soon as the phone rings, they are employed by you the entire time they’re sitting there waiting on that phone.”
Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Donnie Gilliam, who has decades of law enforcement experience, said all of the options discussed requires hiring people and the reason the jail is closing is because they can’t find anyone to work.
“You might be able to hire a deputy or a police officer, but Curt’s (Folger, sheriff) always had the positions of court security, he can’t fill them,” he said.
Current employees at the LCRJ, Sgt. Dustin Price and Lt. Teletha Trent, were both present at the Tuesday meeting and said they live in Lincoln County and would like to continue working in Lincoln County, even as transport officers.
“We’ve got a lot of things to work out and like I said, this is not going to be an easy process,” Adams said. “We’re not dead set on closing this thing. We set a June 1 goal, I don’t know that we’ll reach that goal or not. There’s a lot of things to talk about. We’re open to any suggestions.”
In order to keep the jail open, even just as a “Life Safety Jail” would still require the four people per shift, Wilson added.
Magistrate Joe Stanley said he thinks having the arresting officer make the transport is the best option, rather than having someone on-call or waiting to transport.
“If we need to supplement Curt (Folger, sheriff) or whoever, I think that’s going to be the only sensible way to do it because if he’s in Waynesburg arresting somebody, it doesn’t make sense to bring them back to Stanford and call somebody in the middle of the night and say ‘we have a prisoner for you to transport’ that doesn’t make sense. That’s tying a deputy up for too long,” he said.
Adams said he’s also attempting to compile a three-year spread of Lincoln County and Stanford arrests.
“I don’t think we realized how blessed we’ve been to have a jail, now that we see the issues we’re having to face,” said Magistrate Lonnie Pruitt. “But with the people of Lincoln County working together, this ain’t nothing we can’t overcome. We just have to look and see what’s going to be the best. It’s going to cost us money, that’s the big issue. We might look down the road at building a new jail after we see how much it’s going to cost to send a prisoner somewhere else.”
Magistrate Jeff Ruckel said in previous discussions that closing LCRJ should spur discussions about building a regional jail with surrounding counties like Pulaski and Rockcastle.
Wilson said he is going to ask the state about whether Lincoln County could have a “holding cell” and what would be required to temporarily hold inmates while waiting for transport or someone arrested for drunk driving or public intoxication.
“We have to get a hold of the state to see what the perimeters are as far as being allowed to even have something like a drunk tank to hold people in,” Wilson said.
Stanford Mayor Dalton Miller expressed his concerns about the transport of inmates, as many arrests are made within a mile of the city limits of Stanford and could tie up many city officers.
“Whatever time you take to arrest and come over here and fill out paperwork and put them in jail, you’ve got that now,” Adams said. “You’re away from the street that amount of time now. So I think the amount of time we’re talking about losing is the distance and the time from here to Pulaski and back or wherever we’re going to go. The rest of it is going to be time off the street anyway.”
Miller said his concern is the unexpected issues that come with arrests like sudden medical problems which could tie an officer up for most of the night.
“It’s not going to be easy, I agree,” Adams said.
Wilson said the Department of Corrections has tied local jails’ hands.
“DOC wants us to have four people per shift. If we have 10 inmates or 180, we’ve got to have four staff in that jail,” he said. “…They’re wanting to go to regional jails. They’re pushing for regional jails. They’re holding us to a standard that they don’t even hold themselves to.”
Adams said he plans to call around to several counties that do not have jails and see how they handle their inmates’ housing and transportation.
“I think all of these counties that have closed jails have an idea of what has to take place,” he said. “We’re going to have to do some homework on that pretty quickly.”
In other business, magistrates:
• Heard from Lincoln County resident Chuck Keiser who asked the fiscal court to consider doing some work on Hatcher Lane to help cut down on the growing drug activity and dumping of garbage.
Keiser pitched several options to alleviate the issue including providing an area for dumpsters so people have somewhere to put their trash; closing the road at the bridge; buying land for the county and creating a park; or making it a right of way. Magistrate Joe Stanley said he drove out to Hatcher Lane to test the traffic and see the issues but it is not the only road in the county having these issues.
Magistrate David Faulkner said he couldn’t advocate for closing the road because it serves as a connector for Ky. Hwy. 1194 and Ky. Hwy 300. Magistrates told Keiser they would look at the issue and try to come up with some solutions.
• Reviewed and approved a donation for the Lincoln County Relay for Life Flower sale in the amount of $1,000 to be paid to Shelton’s Greenhouse from the Community Development fund.
• Reviewed and approved FY 2021 third quarter financial statements as well as the County Clerk’s first quarter financial statement for CY 2021.
• Approved authorization to open a bank account for the American Rescue Plan Act funds.