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Jailer speaks out

McCreary County Jailer Jessie Hatfield says he has had it with the lack of support from his County government, and is not sure what he is going to do if things don’t improve soon.


McCreary County Jailer Jessie Hatfield says he has had it with the lack of support from his County government, and is not sure what he is going to do if things don’t improve soon.

The issue, which had been brewing for a while, came to a head Tuesday afternoon as Hatfield was transporting a prisoner to Leslie County.

The prisoner, a convicted rapist, had been released from USP McCreary that morning and was to be taken in to state custody, where he is reportedly set to serve the rest of his life in state prison.

Upon arrival at the facility Hatfield attempted to call McCreary County 911 to inform them that he had arrived at the jail, as normal protocol dictates.

But, Hatfield found that his county-issued cell phone had been disconnected.

That was unacceptable to the Jailer, who spoke to the Voice about the perceived lack of support.

“I’m not putting my life, or the lives of my Transport Officers in danger because we can’t pay the bills,” Hatfield said.

“It bothers me to take a prisoner to jail with no radio and no phone.”

“What would happen if a prisoner tried to escape and we have no way of contacting someone?” he asked.

Hatfield said the radios equipped in the transport vehicles only have limited range, and the cars themselves are unreliable, and could break down in the middle of a transport.

“The radios in the transport vehicles don’t work outside of 40 miles from here because a repeater got hit by lightning years ago and they never bothered to fix it,” Hatfield said.

“They (the Fiscal Court) need to get someone up there to help pay their bills,” Hatfield continued. “I do my job the best I can, but they don’t help.”

When asked about the phone Tuesday afternoon McCreary County Judge Executive Doug Stephens said the disconnect was “purely an accident,” stating the bill got mixed up with other bills and was overlooked when the due date came.

He said once the oversight was noticed, the bill was paid immediately.

At around 4:00 that afternoon the Voice confirmed the phone was back in service with a call to the Jailer.

Judge Stephens apologized to Hatfield for the error, but the Jailer wasn’t appeased.

“We can’t keep doing the way we have been doing,” he told Stephens as he left the office.

Stephens said, while money is tight, and despite rumors to the contrary, the payments to local jails are not an issue, and all bills are current and up-to-date – save for one month of fees owed to Wayne County.

“We have not had a jail refuse prisoners due to us owing them money,” he said. “The jails are simply overcrowded at the moment, and don’t have room for any additional prisoners.”

Stephens said he is waiting on a PILT check from the US Park Service that will allow the County to pay all bills for the final month of the fiscal year.

He added he was sympathetic to Hatfield’s complaints, and stressed he is working on trying to find a solution.

“I understand his frustration,” Stephens said. “We are all frustrated with this situation, but we are doing all we can to fix it.”

To make matters more complicated, that same afternoon Circuit Court Judge Dan Ballou reportedly ordered a prisoner to be brought to Judge Stephens’ office until arrangements could be made to find an available space in a jail for the individual.

The Judge reportedly stated the courthouse cells are for Court use only, and since the individual was now a county prisoner, the Judge Executive could take custody until arrangements were made.

The prisoner was kept in the Judge’s office, under guard, while Stephens called jails to find a place to take the inmate.

Around 5:00 p.m. the inmate was successfully transported to Leslie County.

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