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Officials Complain About Jail—Again

File photo: Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford shows officials the isolation chairs where inmates suffering from mental health episodes or detoxing from drugs are kept.

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

Mercer County Jailer Bret “Chambo” Chamberlain complained to the Mercer County Fiscal Court about the Boyle County Detention Center turning down arrestees whom Chamberlain insisted had been medically cleared.

Chamberlain specifically complained about an arrestee suffering with mental issues on Feb. 3.

“She was physically fine,” Chamberlain said. He said the staff at the detention center turned her down and he was forced to take the arrestee for medical evaluation. The doctor determined the arrestee required inpatient stabilization for psychosis. Chamberlain said they eventually had to take the arrestee to the county where the warrant against them was originally issued.

Chamberlain said the arrestee was not suffering from immediate life threatening injuries as required by state law. He said the jail staff were overriding the doctor.

Chief Tim Hurt of the Harrodsburg Police Department also complained about jail staff turning down arrestees. Hurt said if they had an officer tied up at hospital for hours while the arrestee undergoes medical evaluation, the HPD has to call in another officer to work, increasing overtime expenses.

“This is starting to become an ongoing thing,” said Hurt, who said it’s possible the jail may be in violation of state law for declining arrestees who have been medically cleared.

“We’re stuck with them for hours,” Hurt said.

He also complained that his officers felt they were not being treated with the same professional courtesy as Boyle County officers. Hurt said his officers felt like they were being treated “second hand.”
Mercer Sheriff Ernie Kelty said there have been what he called “bumps” with his officers at the jail, but he said over all he and his staff gets along with the staff at the jail.

Kelty said the sheriff’s office has also had issues with medical clearance at the jail, but he also said after more than 40 years in law enforcement that he understood liability. Kelty recommended a group meeting with all involved parties.

Kelty said he handles arrestee transports himself to keep deputies on patrol and reduce overtime. The sheriff said if they can work out their issues with Boyle County it would be best for everyone.

The regional jail, which is governed by an interlocal agreement passed by the fiscal courts of Mercer and Boyle Counties in 1996, has been a point of contention over the years. In 2018, Mercer County hired a lawyer to look into the financial arrangements at the regional jail. Both counties ultimately agreed to renegotiate the percentage, dropping the floor for Mercer County from 35-percent to 27-percent.

In 2020, Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford complained to the Danville Advocate-Messenger that the interlocal agreement violated Kentucky law. The issue at the heart of that dispute was mental health services, which the jail is constitutionally mandated to provide. However, in both instances, lawyers found the interlocal agreement is lawful and still in effect.

On Tuesday, Mercer Judge-Executive Sarah Steele said the jail is looking for another medical service provider. Steele said Boyle County has given notice to their current provider and was working out a contract with another provider. Steele asked Chamberlain and law enforcement officers to come up with a list of their complaints about the jail

“Give me some exact issues,” Steele said. “We need specific protocols for how to handle that situation.”

The Mercer-Boyle County Joint Jail Commission will meet inside Boyle County Detention Center on Friday, Feb. 17, at 10 a.m.

Judge Steele announced budget requests and department requests for 2023-2024 fiscal year are due on March 15. The next meeting of the Mercer County Fiscal Court will be Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 10 a.m.

For the rest of the story, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald. Click here to subscribe.

1 Comment

  1. Anita pendygraft on February 15, 2023 at 11:03 am

    I have experienced this w/Boyle Co. & surrounding counties. I think it’s about time mental illness is aware w/in the system bc many times I should have been hospitalized Instead of jailed & not only was that dangerous for myself but the jailers had NO idea or business dealing w/me. I needed to be dealt w/ medically & it’s great that mental illness is finally being took serious w/in our government. I truly hope you find a compromise for those that need the help on both sides!!!

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