Jailer: Kenton County housing state inmates well past 45-day maximum

Haley Parnell
Haley Parnell
Haley is a reporter for LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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182 days.

228 days.

242 days.

That is the time some state inmates have stayed in the Kenton County Detention Center — even though state law is set at a 45-day maximum.

Kenton County Jailer Marc Fields said state inmates are a big issue contributing to the overflow of the jail’s population. The jail had 51 state inmates over the 45-day limit as of July 26. 

“The state is violating their own law because they won’t come to take these people,” Fields said.

Here is what the law says:

“State prisoners, excluding the Class D felons and Class C felons qualifying to serve time in jails, shall be transferred to the state institution within forty-five (45) days of final sentencing.”

Fields said the Kenton County Detention Center had approximately 140 more inmates than the ideal 80% population capacity as of July 26 to run smoothly as a direct supervision facility. Direct supervision jails have frequent staff interaction with inmates and actively supervise them to identify problems in the facility.

The detention center had 622 inmates in jail and saw 1,141 new bookings within 55 days, as of July 26.

Fields said the ideal 80% capacity is around 482 inmates. He said even getting down to a population of 550 would make the jail run much more smoothly.

“It gives us an opportunity to make direct supervision work, and it gives us open space to accommodate new bookings,” Fields said. “If we booked 1,141 people in 55 days, think about if we hadn’t gotten any of those people out.”

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The type of state inmates the detention center is housing is not advantageous for the jail, driving up the population and the cost to the detention center to house them.

Fields said the jail spends approximately $58 to $60 on each inmate daily and the state only reimburses the jail $35 for each person. 

“We’ve got one guy in here who is serving 30 years and has been in here 182 days. That’s one example,” Fields said. “155, 114 days. I think what everybody doesn’t know, even though they’re paying $35 a day, that doesn’t cover our costs by any means– 228 days, 242 days. We are a very secure facility, don’t get me wrong, but we are not designed to hold people serving life sentences.”

Fields is part of The Kentucky Jailers Association and said this is a statewide issue. The association has yet to have its first meeting; however, he said if they can’t come to some agreement with the state, then they will let a court decide what will happen.

He said the state has about 3,700 beds open to house inmates but isn’t doing so because their staff is down, from the last numbers he saw, about 800 people.

According to Fields, the jail shipped eight state inmates from the facility about a week ago. Those are the first group of state inmates that have left the detention center since January.

The jail recently had to care for a state inmate who was on dialysis, where they had to transport them three times a week to receive treatment, as well as a pregnant inmate who had to give birth while at the facility.

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“Those kinds of things just aren’t what we are set up to do,” Fields said. “They need to figure it out.”

Some state inmates Field said they do want to house in county jail. Class D (the lowest-level felony) and C inmates are considered minimum or community custody and can participate in work details. They are ultimately helping the surrounding cities.

LINK nky reached out to the state for comment but did not get a response.

One solution Fields offered to get the population under control in the jail is to utilize their home incarceration program more. A judge can sentence someone to home incarceration instead of residing within the jail. The program is essentially an ankle bracelet an inmate wears in their home.

“We are unlimited on the number of bracelets we can have out there,” Fields said.

As of July 26, the detention center had 38 inmates in the jail on probation. With an average stay of 23 days. Fields said the jail is being used as a “time out” for those individuals.

He said he is working on getting people who commit technical violations while on probation, like, failing a drug test or missing an appointment, into the home incarceration program.

During the height of the pandemic, he said they had roughly 125 inmates in the program. As of Aug. 4, they only had 94 in the program.

Funds from the Community Corrections Grant help the jail with purchasing equipment and staff for the program. Those are the days state inmates have stayed in the Kenton County Detention Center when the state law is set at 45 days.

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