Scott County Jailer Derran Broyles knew the county detention center was crowded.
And that was in 1995, four years after it opened and he was a state trooper.
This summer, 162 inmates were housed in the 86-bed facility and he doesn’t see it changing any time soon. On average, the jail usually houses about 130 inmates.
“I think there are multiple reasons why we are seeing crowding, one being the unnatural growth in Scott County,” Broyles said. “I would submit jail population is directly related to county population. The more people you have in the county, the more crimes are committed and the more people are in the jail.”
The crowding is one of the reasons Broyles has made presentations to the county capital projects committee, which is gathering data and information to have for a public forum to prioritize what projects receive consideration and funding first, said County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington.
“Derran has done a presentation and we also had a staff member from the state Department of Corrections come and do a presentation to the committee,” Covington said. “We want to look at priorities as safety for staff and the individuals housed there.”
The current Scott County Detention Center was built in 1991, and Broyles remembered it while he was a state trooper in 1995.
“It was close to capacity in 1995 and hit capacity shortly thereafter. I think the original plans called for a third floor to be built on it, but the fiscal court at that time decided not to. But if we had a third floor, that would meet our needs today.”
The needs are many, and it just isn’t space, Broyles said. The present facility just has four isolation cells for administrative, disciplinary, medical and psychological segregation.
“We have inmates who come in with HIV, hepatitis or TB and there is no medical segregation cell. We have to use one of our four isolation cells to segregate them from the general population, and one of the problems with illnesses like TB is that it is airborne and so contagious. The ventilation system in these isolation cells is not a zero vacuum system to where it goes outside and all we are doing is physically segregating them while the air they breathe circulates through the facility.”
There are also no psychological cells and the number of inmates with those issues is increasing, Broyles said.
“We don’t have the segregation they need to keep from hurting themselves or other inmates. They are surrounded by cinder block walls, concrete floors and metal beds and they can still hurt themselves,” he said. “We had one a year and a half ago who wanted to hurt himself so he would get to the back of the cell and run his head into the door or the wall.”
Another need is programming space, something that wasn’t thought of when it was built. There is one room for programming. When it was built there was church twice a week and maybe GED classes. Now, there are bigger and more needs.
“We use that one space for church, GED instruction, Inside Out Dads which is a fathering program, a program to help them make better choices,” Broyles said. “If you look at our schedule it is booked full Monday through Friday.”
While that may not seem like a big deal, when the jail is overcrowded it causes problems.
“When we got up to 162 inmates, we were using a back hallway, the programming room, pretrial hold and the drunk tank,” Broyles said. “We couldn’t even have church or GED. It’s a shame and it is heartbreaking.”
The jail is not reaching out to take in state inmates, a practice some counties use to add revenue. Broyles said they do have some inmates that are reclassified as state inmates after they plead or are found guilty to felony charges.
“The state reclassifies them as state inmates, but they don’t have anywhere to put them so they end up staying here,” he said.
There have also been changes at the state level that have led to a higher number of inmates. Mandatory sentencing and time served, and an increase of drug use has led to more inmates.
Covington hopes there are two things that could help with crowding. One is a home incarceration program the county is currently pursuing. The other action would come from Frankfort.
“The home incarceration program would give our judges an option to use as a tool in their toolbox when sentencing people or awaiting trial,” he said. “The other part is from my conversations with local legislators. Bail reform is a real possibility that could impact a number of inmates. That could come as early as this spring.”
Something else that could help is if Scott County is approved by the state for a new justice center. Currently, the county is sixth on the list for a new justice center, Covington said.
“We have met with the Administration of the Courts and state legislators and there is no question our justice center is out of room as well. We need another family court and the circuit court clerk is out of room,” Covington said.
If that happens, Broyles and Covington said the detention center could be expanded or be part of the new justice center.
Regardless, Broyles knows this has to be addressed at some point.
“We are at 130-ish right now, and if the county population doubles in 20 years, you are looking at 300 inmates,” he said.