By Greg Bird
Plans to house inmates at the new Knox County Detention Center could be moving ahead as the McCreary County Fiscal Court is expected to consider approving a contract with the jail during their regular monthly meeting tonight, Thursday February 13.
Judge Executive Jimmie Greene received the proposed contract this week, and is reviewing the document, along with Jailer Jessie Hatfield. Knox County Judge Executive Mike Mitchell and Knox Jailer May Hammons drafted the proposed agreement after meeting with Judge Greene and Jailer Jessie Hatfield two weeks ago.
The contract is more detailed than the proposed agreement presented last year by the Whitley County Jail, but bears many similarities.
One pleasant surprise is the fact Knox County is willing to charge only $30 per day per inmate – the same rate the county currently paying to house inmates in Leslie County. Most facilities charge the prevailing state rate of $31.34 per day. If Knox chose to charge the higher rate it could have cost the county an estimated $39,000 per year in additional fees. But with the proposed rate as it is, moving inmates would be a lateral move for the county, and not impact the budget.
What would help lessen costs for the county is the closer proximity of the jail. The Knox County facility is about 30 miles and 40 minutes closer than Leslie County – shaving off about 60 miles and almost an hour and a half from the round trip. It would also be a much safer trip, as the majority would be on highways and interstate. The savings from such a move would be a decrease in fuel and maintenance costs for the county.
The contract does contain a clause that reserves the right of the facility to raise the rate if the state increases the prevailing daily rate.
Jailer Hatfield did have some concerns over some language in the contract, specifically a clause that would allow the jail the right to refuse McCreary County prisoners in the event the facility becomes overcrowded.
The contract also allows McCreary County to contract with other jails to house prisoners at the same time, which would allow for alternatives in case of an overcrowding situation in Knox County.
The new facility has a posted capacity of 295 beds, but with the additional space for detox and other areas, the actual capacity could be about 350. According to the Kentucky Department of Corrections population report as of January 30, Knox County currently has 151 male inmates and 41 female. With the addition of an average of about 80 McCreary County inmates the facility should not have issues with overcrowding unless other counties also opt to use the jail as well.
Knox County would handle all in-facility medical costs for the inmates, but McCreary would be responsible for costs associated with outside providers, such as hospital stays.
McCreary County would be responsible for transport to and from the facility, as well as inmate court appearances, but Knox County would agree to assist if needed.
Judge Greene and County Attorney Austin Price reviewed the contract and asked for clarification on some minor points, and are expected to have those issues resolved before Thursday’s meeting.