KNOX COUNTY - During Wednesday afternoon’s Knox County Fiscal Court meeting, Barbourville resident Dennis Jackson brought forth his concern over recent escaped prisoners from the Knox County Detention Center to the court’s attention.
Jackson, who lives near Knox County’s new detention center, says that when a prisoner escaped from the jail following storms on Easter night, he wasn’t notified until several hours later by a friend who worked for the sheriff’s department. Jackson made mention of how he worried about his grandchildren who visit and work around his home.
Jackson then mentioned a more recent escape from the detention center in which two prisoners fled. He found two shirts where the inmates had changed shirts and went through his lot. Jackson said upon finding the shirts he called the local police department who was unaware of the escape until being notified later by Knox County Dispatch.
“There was no excuse for it,” said Jackson. “The boys working outside just back after Easter, they walked off. These two walked off at 11:00 at night, 10:00, whenever it was. Nobody can even tell what time it was,” he continued later adding, “If my wife would have been there by herself, and somebody came up on the porch, I gave her orders to shoot them.”
Knox County Jailer Mary Hammons said the only prisoners permitted to work outdoors are those with nonviolent charges. She also made note that the detention center has changed some of its procedures and implemented new ones to help notify citizens of an escaped prisoner.
Hammons said she had put a notice in the local newspaper informing residents that they could provide the jail with their phone numbers, and be placed on list to be notified when an escape from the jail occurs. Since posting the notice however, Hammons has only had one person submit their phone number.
Knox County Judge Executive Mike Mitchell announced that he had been in conversations with members of the county’s 911 board about potentially purchasing a system like AlertSense to notify residents of an escaped convict.
“It would be good, as long as whenever it’s reported to dispatch so they can put out a thing instantly. We can either have it text or a phone call made to that phone,” explained Mitchell. “We could use it for other things - storms, flooding, natural disasters, or anything like that as well, so it would be multifunctioned.”
When Jackson asked why a fence wasn’t built around the facility during construction, Mitchell said he wasn’t around during the planning phase of the project, but that fencing wasn’t a part of the planning phase. Hammons said it came down to a lack of money.
“We’ve got a bigger facility than what we really can afford I guess is the true and factual thing about it,” said Mitchell.
“I know it’s not something that happens everyday, and I know that Mary is doing a great job up there, but it’s going to happen sooner or later, somebody’s going to come out of there that’s not a decent person, I’ll say it like that, and something’s going to happen. So we’ve got to be ready for it," Jackson said.
According to Hammons, the Knox County Detention Center is currently over populated. As of Wednesday, Hammons said the jail was housing 315 inmates, the jail’s max capacity for inmates is 294. Of those 315 currently being housed in Knox County, 115 are state inmates, 45 are from McCreary County, and the rest are Knox County inmates. The Knox County Detention Center currently has three escaped inmates on the run.
“Public safety is the ultimate concern,” said Mitchell. “We need to be more vigilant about making everybody aware of it, and doing what we can to prevent anything like this from happening again."
Later on in the meeting, unrelated to Jackson’s comments, the court approved the Knox County Detention Center’s 2020 canteen report, as well as a motion that would bring one new full-time and three part-time staff members to the jail. Hammons said the jail currently has approximately 29 full-time staff and 14 part-time staff.
The fiscal court later approved renaming Barbourville’s Jail Street, which runs along the old Knox County Jail, to Annex Street to help clear up confusion on the postal service’s behalf. Mitchell said with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department relocating into the old Knox County Jail, the department’s mail had been getting sent to the new detention center.
The court also approved Ordinance 20200722-01 which refinances Knox County’s hospital’s sinking fund. As Mitchell explains it, with current interest rates being low, the county could save up to $71,944 by refinancing the county’s current bond.
A motion was also passed allowing the court to purchase two new trucks from Kentucky Transportation Cabinet surplus division. One of the trucks is a 2008 Chevrolet 3500 flatbed truck listed at $15,000. The other truck, a 2006 Mack dump truck, will cost $18,000.
The court then approved a motion to surplus a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck owned by the county.
The court approved a motion approving the bid from Bissell’s Inc. in providing cleaning supplies. However, the court rejected three bids for janitorial supplies due to the lack of clarity, quantities, and products offered in the bids. said Mitchell.
“They bid, but it wasn’t apples to apples, and oranges to oranges,” he said. “We’re going to re-advertise that, and put that out and specifically say what we want. It was too hard to determine who actually had the low bid on it.”
In other fiscal court news, the court:
- Approved a motion to reappoint Robert “Bob” Mitchell, and Rebecca “Becky” Miller to the Southeast Kentucky Industrial Development Authority. Both Mitchell’s and Miller’s current term expired back in February, but because of the coronavirus, their reappointments were pushed back until now.
Judge Mitchell abstained from voting on the motion.
- Approved the hiring of James Jones as maintenance personnel for the Knox County court facilities.
- Approved a motion to approve the county attorney’s delinquent tax report for $218,302.