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Kentucky Association of Counties


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County jail discussion marks first meeting of special task force

KACo, Jailers’ Association representatives testify in Frankfort

Members of the Jail and Corrections Reform Task Force held their first meeting Monday, with representatives from KACo and the Kentucky Jailers’ Association providing an overview of county jail operations across the state.

“The county has a statutory responsibility for incarcerating people who are arrested within their jurisdiction,” said Jim Henderson, executive director of KACo. “If the city cops, the state police, the sheriff, anybody picks up someone and brings them in, [county jails] must take care of them. We have to care for them. We have to feed them. We have to provide their medical care. All until they are either bonded out or they go to trial.” 

In Kentucky, 70 counties operate full-service jails, four counties are home to regional jails, and three counties have “life safety” jails, which do not house state inmates. Forty-three counties do not operate a jail facility but are still responsible for inmate transport and the cost of housing that prisoner in another county. 

According to data from the Kentucky Department of Corrections, around 21,000 inmates are currently house in county jails. As of April 2023, roughly 45% of inmates in county facilities are state inmates. Counties receive a per diem rate of $35.34 for each state inmate housed.  

Budgeting for and operating a jail have long been the most challenging concerns for county fiscal courts. Jail costs often represent the largest part of a county’s budget. James Daley, Campbell County Jailer and president of the Kentucky Jailers’ Association, told the task force that many of the issues affecting jails are out of their control.  

“The legislature and local governments need to start looking at corrections from 10,000 feet, right? Because this is not a jail problem. This is a criminal justice problem,” Daley said. 

Daley and jailers from Daviess, Grayson and Hardin counties described several issues they face, including a lack of mental health care for inmates, a backlog of cases in the judicial system and the number of inmates in controlled intake waiting for transfer to a state facility.  

“We’ve got inmates that are sometimes sitting as long as six months to a year waiting to be classified [to a state prison]. And that’s not fair to anyone,” Grayson County Jailer Jason Woosley said. 

Legislators on the task force requested additional information and data regarding county operational costs, current jail debt, personnel, inmate programming, in-custody deaths and trends. 

“I think it’s really important that this task force and this General Assembly work to standardize some of what you’re doing across the state,” said task force co-chair Rep. Josh Bray. “The facility [an inmate] serves in is impacting [their] opportunities and outcomes. It’s important we standardize that as much as possible.” 

The next meeting of the Jail and Corrections Reform Task Force is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, July 24.  

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