jails

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Parts of the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women (KCIW) in Shelby County have been without power since Thursday, leaving all but two of the prison’s housing units without air conditioning.

Department of Corrections spokesperson Lisa Lamb says the outage is due to a main switch gear failure.

“We are working diligently to repair the system but due to its age and the availability of parts, the ETA on full repair is several days,” Lamb said, in an email to WFPL.

Generators are keeping the lights on at the facility, and visitation has been suspended until the power is restored.

This comes after a week of extreme heat in Kentucky, with heat advisories in effect most of the week, and temperatures up to 96 degrees on Thursday, when the outage began.

Bart Bomback’s wife is incarcerated at the KCIW.

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Kentucky’s Department of Corrections has spent more than $28 million trying to resolve problems accounting for how much good-time credit prison and jail inmates have earned since 2007.

The money has gone to an international auditing firm, KPMG, which has worked to straighten out Kentucky’s errors following a class-action lawsuit and court order for the state to do so.

The state could be on the hook for even more money if a court awards damages to inmates whose good-time credits weren’t recognized and who were held beyond what should have been their release dates.

During a legislative meeting on Thursday, Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary Mary Noble said she believes the end of the nearly decade-long lawsuit is in sight.

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The Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether local jails are allowed to bill people for incarceration costs, even if they are later cleared of wrongdoing.

The High Court heard arguments Wednesday over a case involving a Winchester man arrested in 2014 on child pornography charges that were eventually dropped because police found no evidence.

After his arrest, David Jones couldn’t afford to pay a $15,000 bond and spent 14 months in the Clark County Jail, racking up more than $4,000 in jail fees while prosecutors pursued the case.

Jones filed a lawsuit against the county over the tab. During a hearing on Wednesday, Jones’ attorney Gregory Belzley argued that automatically charging inmates for jail costs goes against the presumption of innocence.

Facebook/Warren County Regional Jail

When the first coronavirus cases were reported last year, Warren County, Kentucky, Jailer Stephen Harmon knew there was going to be a COVID-19 outbreak in his jail. It was just a matter of when.  

“We tried our best to keep it from happening,” he said. “However with this many people in a fairly small spot, we knew that that was going to happen at some point so we responded to it as best we could.” 

New cleaning regimens and masks helped the jail prevent an outbreak until December, when Harmon’s prediction came true. More than 300 inmates and about 45 staffers tested positive before the outbreak was contained. 

 

  

Facebook/Warren County Regional Jail

COVID-19 has struck inmates and staff at detention centers across Kentucky, including a recent outbreak at the Warren County Regional Jail.

There have also been outbreaks of the virus at the Allen and Barren county jails.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections has authority over state prisons and has managed outbreaks at the Green River Correctional Complex in Muhlenberg County and the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Shelby County.

But county jails are under local control.


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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