Troubled Kentucky jail improves under new leadership

CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (AP) — A troubled Kentucky jail has seen huge improvements since getting a new jailer a little over a year ago.

A state jail inspection report for Boyd County Detention Center in December 2018 listed hundreds of deficiencies. Last September, the report listed six items for remediation, The Independent reported.

Jailer Bill Hensley faced lawsuits, federal investigations, low staff morale and substandard conditions when he took over the facility in December 2018.

“When I came in, it was on the borderline whether this jail would continue,” Hensley said.

In January of 2020, the facility has new scanners to detect drugs. Deputies get better training and better pay. Improved conditions and incentives at the jail result in better behavior from inmates.

Hensley said he focused on changing how deputies and inmates were treated.

“One of the first things I did was make sure everybody understood the culture would be different. It would be a culture of respect and professionalism. We would treat people different,” he said.

Much of the improvement results from close coordination between Hensley and the fiscal court, Judge-Executive Eric Chaney said. That has resulted in county officials investing $2.7 million on the jail over the last year.

Problems haven't disappeared. The jail still has several pending lawsuits, including one alleging wrongful death that was filed in December 2019.

But escapes are rare and the amount of contraband entering the jail has dropped significantly.

“Today there is no comparison,” Chaney said. “It’s a totally different facility from leadership on down.”

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