In Sept. 16 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
The Kentucky Department of Corrections has moved forth with the closure of the Russell County Jail for non-compliance of several issues. The jail was scheduled padlocked down at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
Officials with the Department of Corrections met with Judge-Executive Mickey Garner, Jailer Darrell McQueary and Asst. County Attorney Jeff Loy at a public hearing on Tuesday morning at the courthouse where they were told of the news.
Local officials had hoped that the closure could have been postponed until the new detention center is completed this winter, but it was to no avail.
Department of Corrections Deputy Commissioner Rodney Ballard and Director Jeff Burton attended the meeting and said that they found no evidence or other justifiable causes to stay the order for the closure of the jail.
"Now that the milk spilt, everybody wants to fix it," Ballard said. "My position is to protect the commissioner of the department of corrections in her civil liability. The jail has failed to meet the minimum requirements set forth by both the KRS's and the Kentucky jail standards. If I turn a blind eye and allow it to continue I then, too, become part of the civil process for negligence. I see no way to turn back the clock and fix the problem."
A department of corrections press release read that McQueary had failed to make the necessary corrections for the non-compliant issues noted in the May 3rd and August 25th jail inspections.
During the August inspection, Jail Services Specialist Michael Coomer noted the following violations:
• Staff had not received training in the administration of medications to inmates.
• Most of the staff had yet to receive their annual in-service training for the year.
• Smoking was still being permitted inside the jail
• The security cover over the fire alarm sensor in cell 9A had still not been replaced.
In addition to these violations, the county has failed to abide by the conditions of the waiver granted by the department of corrections in February. Specifically, no additional staff has been hired at the jail, fire watches have not been conducted and documented and smoking, which is considered contraband, has been permitted to continue inside the jail by staff and inmates.
These offenses are violations of life safety regulations, according to KRS statutes pertaining to the protection of persons or property.
Ballard commended Garner and the fiscal court, saying they have been very cooperative the department during the process but the duty fell back to the elected official, the jailer.
"I want the community to know that the judge-executive has worked hand-in-hand with us throughout this process," Ballard said.
He also said that the closure of the current jail would have no effect on the new detention center once it opens.
"We'll treat your jail like all the new jails we've opened up," he said. "We'll come down and do all your in-service training for employees at one time, we'll do your suicide prevention training, get your medication staff plugged in, get your food service running and your kitchen up and going before you ever move the first inmate in."
The 14 or so employees at the jail have, essentially, lost their jobs as McQueary will be the only one continuing to get paid.
With its status now as a closed jail, the fiscal court now has the authority to appoint McQueary as a bailiff or a transportation officer and be responsible for transporting all prisoners, according to Ballard. Additional transportation officers may be hired to transport prisoners to facilities and court hearings.
"It was not my intent for the jail to close," McQueary said. "It would be a lot easier on me for the jail to stay open."
McQueary also said it was tough to see his deputies lose their jobs due to the closure.
The fingerprinting machine and the breathalyzer also had to be moved out of the facility and into the Jamestown Police Department for safe keeping during the closure.
Garner has said the new detention center should be open by the first of next year.