Crowded Ky. jails prompt alternative sentencing

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) —Overcrowded jails and tight budgets have prompted some judges and jailers in eastern Kentucky to consider alternative sentencing for inmates.

Carter County is considering it, and the Boyd County Detention Center is in the process of starting a work program.

The proposals come on the heels of a successful program in Greenup County, which started a work farm in April.

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Greenup County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell McCarty told The Independent of Ashland the farm had brought in about $1,500 worth of produce at the beginning of August and more is expected. Inmates have harvested about 900 pounds of potatoes, and McCarty said there are 12 more rows to dig.

The produce is used in the detention center kitchens. Extras are frozen for later use.

The detention center has saved about $50,000 by keeping county inmate numbers down and taking in more state inmates. The newspaper reported the county is paid about $33 each day for a state inmate instead of paying to house county inmates.

The program has had problems, though.

McCarty said that because workers aren’t housed in the jail, some don’t show up to work when they should. The dates for people to complete their hours or be sent back to jail are coming up soon, he said.

Another problem: some have to learn how to farm.

“Some of these people don’t know which end of a hoe to pick up,” he said.

Brian C. McCloud, district court judge for Greenup and Lewis counties, said the program has been a “great success.”

McCloud said he thinks it will continue during the winter with inmates doing indoor projects for the city and other community organizations.

Judge Marc Rosen told The Independent he hopes the Boyd County program starts soon.

The detention center’s plan would allow inmates to work Saturdays on projects such as maintaining local cemeteries.

The Department of Corrections has ordered the detention center to cap its inmate population at 220 after an inspection in July found the 206-bed facility had 356 inmates.

Jailer Joe Burchett estimated the county could lose more than $1 million in revenue due to the cap.

In Carter County, Jailer Randy Binion said he also was considering alternative sentences based on the success of Greenup County’s program.

He says the 144-bed detention center hasn’t met that number in several years.