By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
Should an online system used by corrections and law enforcement officials continue to be kept out of one jail? The situation was brought up at Knox County Fiscal Court during their regular meeting Wednesday.
At issue is the corrections management system known as JailTracker. Available online, JailTracker provides access to information about an inmate, including photos, physical description, their history behind bars, scheduled release dates and other records.
While neighboring jails in Whitley and Laurel counties use JailTracker, the Knox County Jail does not.
“We took it off a year ago because it was unfair to those who were arrested and later found innocent. Once your picture is on there, it used to be on there forever,” Knox County Judge-Executive J. M. Hall told those attending the session.
Jailer Mary Hammons echoed Hall’s sentiment on having pictures on the online system, adding that several children of parents who have been on JailTracker but later found innocent have been embarrassed in public.
A Barbourville newspaper recently made an open records request to get the pictures from the jail and run them on a weekly basis.
While some in the audience agreed if someone was guilty of a crime, their picture should be on the page for all to see, some magistrates disagreed, including 5th District Magistrate Guilio Cima.
“Even though they say they’re innocent until proven guilty, as far as the public goes, they’re guilty when they see their picture,” Cima said.
“I see it from both angles,” added Hall, who said he had met with the Jail Committee earlier Wednesday for an update on the situation. The committee did talk with JailTracker about what could be done.
“Now they’re saying they’re giving Mary (Hammons) some options when it can be run. They’re saying now they can run pictures for so many days and then the pictures are taken off, in say 30 days,” Hall said.
The jail is also running under a used generator for electric power, after Hall pointed out the old generator suffered a power surge recently.
“We turned in a claim on our insurance on the old one, and we’re renting a used generator from Whayne Supply right now. The new one will be in later this week,” Hall said.
Also discussed was the closing of the long-term care facility at Knox County Hospital last month, which Hall said was costing the county about $1.1 million a year. With the closing, the county would save $500,000 in initial costs, and would get back money from medical funding sources within the year to save $1.1 million over a one-year period.
“It was a decision we didn’t want to do, but we’ve closed it over a period of time. Monday was the last day we had a long-term patient there. Long-term care is officially closed,” Hall said.
Hall noted 16 patients were in the facility at the hospital, which is owned by the county. He mentioned the patients were moved to other nursing homes in the area.
Former Barbourville City Utilities Commissioner Randall Young reminded those at the session about the parking situation downtown, along the inside Court Square. He encouraged them to be more thoughtful about parking elsewhere, which Young said would help tractor-trailers and coal trucks maneuver more safely through the square.
“People see some law enforcement vehicles around the square, and they think if those cars can park there, so can they. But it does hinder the trucks trying to negotiate through the square, and it doesn’t help beautification efforts, either, downtown,” Young added.
Both Young and Hall encouraged people to park at Mitchell’s Parking Lot near the square, which is owned by the City of Barbourville, as well as the parking lot by the Knox County Jail. Hall said that with the exception of a small strip of land, much of the lot is owned by the county.
Among actions taken at Wednesday’s meeting, the court approved a resolution in which they adopted the Cumberland Valley Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan, set forth by the Cumberland Valley Area Development District (CVADD).
“FEMA requires local governments to have a mitigation plan in place, in order to get funding from FEMA in case of weather emergencies, like a flood, tornado or severe storms,” Hall told court members before the resolution was passed.
Also adopted was the SAR (Search and Rescue) plan for the Knox County Special Operations Response Team (SORT), along with a resolution from Operation UNITE concerning an interlocal agreement which would bring UNITE money for anti-drug investigations, prevention, treatment and education in the county.
Knox County Hospital was added to the capital asset listing, retroactive to the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2006. Hall said during a recent audit, the auditor noticed the hospital wasn’t listed and brought that to the court’s attention.
And they approved a proclamation designating the month of March as American Red Cross Month in Knox County.
In addition, the court voted to give Alden Resources permission to mine through an unkempt portion of Elliott Branch Road that is not part of the county road plan. The section of road is near Logan Hollow, where Alden is currently mining.
“Alden has requested a letter from the Fiscal Court saying we give them permission, and that the letter be sent to the state Natural Resources Cabinet and the Environmental Protection Cabinet. They would leave that part of the road in as good shape as it was before, and would allow the company to work in the permitted area.,” noted Hall.
Also approved was accepting Bear Drive, off KY 3436, into the county road system.
Hall pointed out, “It’s a county road. It’s been blacktopped and graveled and has a 30-foot right-of-way, but it’s never been legally accepted.”
In addition, court members voted to reappoint William Brewer to a new four-year-term as Knox County Utility Commissioner. His term on the commission will expire in April 2017.