'End of the road'

·4 min read

Sep. 16—Of every 10 inmates released from the Madison County Detention Center, eight are likely to come back according to county Jailer Steve Tussey who shared the facility's recidivism rate of 80%.

Most of these returning individuals have drug-related charges according to Tussey who shared an update on Tuesday morning to the Madison County Fiscal Court.

That day, he reported 502 inmates were under the umbrella of the jail with 312 inmates inside of the 184-bed facility, 58 on home incarceration and 132 inmates in other county facilities — on the Madison County dime.

He said the overcrowded jail issue was one that was now compounded with ongoing renovations to the rapidly deteriorating site structure, and COVID-19 outbreaks inside the detention center.

Tussey said he has tried to maintain an empty cell to accommodate renovations which was becoming difficult with the increase in the numbers of inmates, and those needing to be quarantined.

"We have been very fortunate because we have got a great staff that I could never say good enough things about — privately or publicly — they really go the distance everyday," Tussey said.

Forty-seven inmates are positive for COVID-19 according to the jailer, and he said to manage that in such a small space, is extremely difficult.

He added in addition to the jail's numbers going up, were warrants and arrest rates were also rising.

"I say all of that with a word of caution," he said. "We have talked about the jail for so long and most people are probably really tired of hearing about it and I'm sorry, but it is not going away. It is getting worse and there is an end to this road. Sadly the end of that road is in sight and the end of that road is when we run out of space to send inmates to other counties."

Madison County, however, is not the only place struggling with high incarceration rates, which Tussey said requires him to send inmates farther and farther away. Some are being housed as far as Leslie County.

"It is something that must be addressed. We are looking at options for temporary housing because even if we started the process of a new jail today, we would not see that for another two or three years. We can not maintain what we are doing for another two or three years. We will have to look at other options," Tussey said.

In quick math from County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor, he stated with 132 inmates in other counties, if the county paid their per diem cost to house everyday for a year, it would total to more than $1.5 million.

"That is just to house our inmates in other counties," Taylor said. "That doesn't include transport costs, gasoline, wear and tear on vehicles, labor for a deputy to go pick them up. So it is expensive."

Later in the meeting, Taylor shared the drug epidemic is a root issue to a lot of problems that could be seen happening in the county — the jail being one example.

"We don't have a jail problem, but a drug problem which then creates a jail problem. In all my research and reading and trying to figure this out I know one thing is not working, and that's incarcerating drug addicts."

He said the reason he believed that was because of the number of inmates with drug related crimes and the high recidivism rate with the same individuals that go before the county attorney multiple times.

"Incarcerating is not working," he reiterated. "We can all agree that there are some people out there who are bad people who need to be incarcerated. But someone who has a mental issue that uses drugs to cope with whatever trauma they have had in their life, I don't think needs to be incarcerated."

He stated the county has tried several things such as the Jail Task Force, idea proposals, the rocket docket and countless programs which have been implemented to address this issue.

"We have not gotten anywhere because we have not had the support of the majority," he admitted. "I will just leave it at that. That does not mean we give up. That does not mean we will not try little by little to improve our positions."

Other business:

—Deputy Director Jennifer Hitch of the Madison County EMA was awarded Director of the Year from the Kentucky Emergency Management Agency.

—The week of Sept. 17 through 23 was deemed 'Constitution Week' by Judge Reagan Taylor and urged citizens to study the document and educate themselves on what it means to be an American citizen.

—Ethan Witt and Dr. Tim Ross were approved for appointment to the Madison Airport Board Inc. by the Madison County Fiscal Court.

—Goggins Lane between Tates Creek and Barnes Mill Road was approved for annexation into the city of Richmond limits.

—Megan Barger was approved for hire as the full time kennel care technician at the Madison County Animal Shelter.

—Jacob Tharpe was promoted from firefighter I to firefighter II.

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