Overcrowded jails leads to transport issue
Many McCreary County arrestees have to be housed farther and farther away due to the overcrowding of jails normally used to hold county inmates.
Currently Wayne County is not accepting any McCreary County inmates at this time. Pulaski County is still accepting females, and Leslie County has limited space available.
As a result, many local arrestees are being transported to jails located as far away as Jackson and Kenton County until the space clears up again.
McCreary County Judge Executive Doug Stephens said it is a matter of overcrowding at jails typically used to house McCreary County inmates, not a financial issue.
“If you remember two years ago Wayne County had a large influx of arrests over the Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “The same thing happened this year. They have to make room for their own inmates, so there is no room right now for any of ours.”
“That situation is something we will have to deal with, but hopefully it will resolve itself soon.”
A call to the Wayne County Detention Center has confirmed the overcrowding issue, and a spokesperson stated it was not due to any past due payments from McCreary County.
According to the Wayne County Fiscal Court, McCreary County owes for two past months of housing, totaling over $85,000. Judge Stephens said the check for the payment is on its way to Wayne County.
The inmate population issue is a problem for many Kentucky jails, as the majority of the facilities are over capacity.
According to the latest Kentucky Department of Corrections population report, dated May 26, all jails in the local area are over capacity. In the latest population report, Wayne County reported 155 inmates for 95 beds, Whitley County 215 for 134 beds, Pulaski County: 301 with a 171-bed capacity.
In fact, according to the DOC, County jails across the state are overcrowded, holding 22,834 inmates with only 19,621 beds available. The majority of facilities included in the report are over capacity.
McCreary County Attorney Conley Chaney stated he has been working with local officials and other jail facilities to help alleviate the problem.
“This is not a long-term situation,” Chaney said. “It is a temporary fix, while we work on a longer-term solution.”
“It is not ideal right now, but we don’t have any other option at the moment.”
Chaney noted the County has used home incarceration and converting some warrants to summonses to help alleviate the arrests, but those can only be applied in a few cases.
One issue that will need to be addressed by the Fiscal Court involves the Transport Officers.
With more transports being several hours away, the need for two officers to accompany a prisoner is a necessity for security reasons, and providing means to re-fuel the transport vehicles is a priority.
“Obviously, we will pay the officers for the additional time they are on a transport, and will allow two officers on longer trips to allow for bathroom breaks,” Judge Stephens said.
Another option is using the Courthouse’s holding cell, where an inmate can be held up to four hours. If a second arrest is made while an inmate is being held, the transport officer can do both transports, saving one trip.
That option is limited as well, but could provide some relief as certain prisoners may be able to post bond while waiting to be transferred, thus eliminating the need for a trip.
Jailer Jessie Hatfield was unable to comment on this story due to being at a training conference this week, but has been in contact with the Judge’s Office and his transport staff and kept abreast of the situation.