jails

Barren County Detention Center

Group facilities, such as county jails, provide some of the biggest challenges to preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

After more than 60 inmates at the Barren County Detention Center tested positive for the virus two weeks ago, extensive testing has been initiated, in addition to frequent cleaning and other precautionary measures. 

WKU Public Radio Reporter Rhonda Miller spoke with Barren County Jailer Aaron Bennett about working with the county Judge Executive’s office, emergency management, and the local health department to quickly tackle the virus. 


J. Tyler Franklin

On the first Sunday in March, Teresa Johnson’s son called her from the Green River Correctional Complex with news that the facility was shutting down visitation due to the coronavirus.

Johnson didn’t think much of it back then. She had just visited her son earlier that day. The coronavirus seemed to be under control.

Since then it’s been a steady stream of worrisome news.

“My son would call and he would say ‘Mama, there’s more people here sick than what the news is saying,’” Johnson said.

J. Tyler Franklin

A group of women with ties to Kentucky’s Green River Correctional Complex is urging Gov. Andy Beshear to release more inmates amid the pandemic. A dozen women calling themselves “Prison Wives of Green River Correctional Complex” gathered outside the governor’s mansion and the Kentucky Capitol on Saturday afternoon, carrying homemade signs and wearing T-shirts with pictures of their loved ones who are behind bars.

As of May 22, 357 inmates and 50 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus at Green River, a state prison in Muhlenberg County. Three men have died, although the state says the exact cause of death for one of those men is still pending.

Kentucky Department of Corrections

The number of COVID-19 cases in Muhlenberg County has spiked suddenly, following the recent mass testing at a state prison in Central City.

The Muhlenberg County Health Department reports 467 cases of COVID-19.

The total includes confirmed cases in the community, and at the Green Rive Correctional Complex, a state prison in Central City that can house close to 1,000 men. 

Alma Fink is nursing supervisor for the Muhlenberg County Health Department.

“The spike was reported suddenly because as the tests were done over the period of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week, they were sent to Gravity labs to be finalized, and those results started flowing in a couple of days after the tests were run," said Fink.


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Mass testing at two Tennessee prisons has uncovered nearly 2,000 cases of the coronavirus behind bars so far.

Officials have repeatedly said most inmates who have tested positive are not showing symptoms. But some health experts are cautioning prisons to prepare for that to change.

When the Tennessee Department of Correction first reported that 162 inmates at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex had tested positive for the coronavirus on Apr. 20, officials said the “vast majority” were asymptomatic.

 


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Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order last week releasing 186 inmates from state prisons who were vulnerable to the coronavirus. Advocates are calling on the state to take similar steps to protect juveniles who are incarcerated.

The ACLU of Kentucky has sent a letter to Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner LaShana Harris, asking her to release as many children as possible, and publicly share the department’s emergency response plan for addressing the pandemic.

“Even in the best of circumstances, infection control presents a significant challenge in these situations because incarcerated youth…often congregate in large groups and live [in] communal settings with shared bathrooms, dining areas, and more,” the letter reads.

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Thousands of inmates held in county jails have been released since the Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice issued an order last week effectively closing the courts, according to data provided by the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.

The order to close the courts came in response to the spreading COVID-19 disease. In response to the order, the state’s public advocate, Damon Preston, called for defendants held on cash bail be released. On Friday, Preston praised his department’s efforts to secure the release of more than 3,200 inmates from county jails — marking a 28 percent reduction in the state’s county jail population.

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Kentucky is one of many states facing overcrowded jails and surging costs for holding those inmates. State lawmakers are considering some minor efforts to reform the commonwealth’s criminal justice system.

One bill in the Kentucky General Assembly would make it easier to transfer state prisoners to jails that are at, or below, 150 percent capacity.

 

Ashley Spalding, a research director for the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said while the transfer bill could bring down overcrowding at different times, it doesn’t address the true causes of the problem.


Kentucky State Police

An inmate from the Warren County Regional Jail has escaped while on work release. 

According to Kentucky State Police, the escapee is Michael Lane, 36, of Bowling Green. KSP received a call around 7:15 a.m. Tuesday stating that Lane walked away near Scottsville Road and Oliver Street. 

Lane is a white male with brown hair and brown eyes.  He’s about 5'10" in height, and weighs approximately 175 pounds. He was last seen wearing black pants and a black shirt. 

Lane was in jail on several charges, including being a persistent felony offender, receiving stolen property, and probation violation. 

KSP is asking the public to contact them if they have any information on the escapee’s whereabouts.

ANNE MARSHALL / WPLN

Tennessee's incarceration rate is on the rise — defying a nationwide trend. A new task force appointed by Gov. Bill Lee hopes to change that.

But for now, the group's focus is narrow: reducing the number of felons who end up back behind bars after they're released.

The Criminal Justice Investment Task Force says new data revealed at its first meeting will inform policy proposals. And the numbers were striking.

 


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During the first televised debate of this year’s race for governor, Gov. Matt Bevin claimed that the state hasn’t expanded its prison population under his watch.

“We have expanded our prison population not one lick, I’ve made clear I’m not building more prisons,” Bevin said last week. “And the rapid increase that you ask about…happened under the previous governor and the governors before that. It has leveled off in recent years.”

Bevin is right that the majority of Kentucky’s prison population boom took place under previous governors. Historical data shows that back in 1978 under Democratic Gov. Julian Carroll, Kentucky’s prison population was 3,390. By 2007 at the end of Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration, that number had ballooned to 22,457.

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A new report ranks Kentucky 9th in the nation for the rate at which counties hold residents in local jails. The state-by-state analysis aims to provide a more comprehensive picture of the effect local jails have. The report was produced by The Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit group focused on criminal justice reform. 

The group analyzed results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which compiles data on the health of individuals who have been arrested.


   

New Grant To Fund Research On Kentucky Jails

Jun 5, 2019
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A new grant will allow the nonprofit Kentucky Center For Economic Policy to research Kentucky’s rising incarceration rates.

The $10,000 grant from the New York-based nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice was announced Tuesday. KCEP Executive Director Jason Bailey said his organization will research and collect data on county jails in Barren, Leslie, Boyle and Rowen counties in order to compare those jails’ data.

He said KCEP chose to research incarceration because Kentucky’s jail population is still climbing.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Barren County is partnering with a local industry to train jail inmates for life outside the fence.

Johnson Controls is establishing a training program for inmates to become certified HVAC technicians. The company and inmates will work to reduce energy costs in county-owned facilities.

Kentucky Labor Secretary and former Barren County Judge-Executive David Dickerson says the results will be two-fold.

Rhonda J. MIller

A dozen women in the Daviess County Detention Center are rehearsing for a March 26 performance that’s part of the Owensboro Symphony’s ‘Music On Call’ community engagement program. The symphony got a grant from Owensboro Health to bring a choir director into the jail and have the inmates bring the music back into the community.

“You’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles. You’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies," sing the members of the women’s choir at the first of four Friday afternoon rehearsals to prepare for their March 26 performance.

One woman in this choir at the Daviess County Detention Center who said she’s no longer planning to walk the same old road that landed her in jail is Jennifer Blaisdell. The 54-year-old says she’s finding a new path, including singing with a group for the first time.


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