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Ky. inmates overdose in jail for 2nd time this year

The jail does not have an Xray machine, which might’ve detected the drugs if they were hidden in a body cavity


Andrew Adkins
The Daily Independent, Ashland, Ky.

CATLETTSBURG — Inmates overdosed inside the Boyd County Detention Center for the second time this year.

Jailer Joe Burchett confirmed to The Daily Independent that on Nov. 12, two male prisoners overdosed, and jail deputies transported them to a local hospital. Both men received treatment and were later returned to the jail, Burchett said.

Burchett said the overdoses happened shortly after the two inmates were booked. He said he believes at least one of the two inmates snuck drugs past inspection, but he isn’t yet sure how. Deputies searched both inmates upon entrance and observed them for two hours before they consumed what was likely heroin, Burchett said.

The jail does not have an Xray machine, which might’ve detected the drugs if they were hidden in a body cavity, Burchett said.

The Catlettsburg Police Department is investigating the incident.

In a phone interview with The Daily Independent on Monday, Burchett confirmed two inmates overdosed inside the jail this month.

For most of the year, the jail has been at the center of a troubling series of incidents, most notably a riot that shut the jail down completely for nearly four weeks. Burchett said he feels the jail has been the victim of bad luck.

The two inmates who overdosed in the jail last week were the ninth and 10th in 2017.

In April, eight female inmates overdosed on what were believed to be opioids after one prisoner allegedly smuggled the drugs past inspection through a body cavity. All eight were treated and released from King’s Daughters Medical Center.

In May, a Boyd County deputy jailer was arrested on trafficking and possession charges. The deputy, William A. Mauk, was hired by the jail a month before his arrest. Mauk was allegedly seen “accepting items” during his shift on May 11, and was pulled over by the sheriff’s office after his shift ended around 1 a.m. the following morning. Sheriff’s deputies found packages of meth, pills, syringes and other illegal items, according to the sheriff’s office.

In June, a $75,000 settlement was reached in a suit filed by an ex-jail employee against Burchett. The former employee claimed Burchett ignored her repeatedly when she complained her supervisor, Scott Salyer, sexually harassed her in 2015.

Burchett told The Daily Independent at the time he was upset about the settlement, which was reached by counsel for the plaintiff and Boyd County, the Kentucky Association of Counties. Burchett said he believed he would’ve won the case had it gone to trial because he followed the proper procedures.

A few days after The Daily Independent published an article about the settlement, Burchett said he asked for Salyer’s resignation, and Salyer provided it.

In late July, four inmates broke out of the Boyd County jail by exploiting what jail officials called a “design flaw,” in the building. Three of the inmates were apprehended within a week, while one was captured a month later in Greenup County.

Three days before the jail break, another inmate escaped jail custody while receiving treatment at King’s Daughters Medical Center. The inmate was found about 30 minutes later hiding in nearby bushes.

On Aug. 18, a group of inmates allegedly broke the jail’s sprinkler system with a broom handle, flooding the jail’s control system. The following night, about 10 maximum security inmates overpowered two security guards and ignited a riot. The inmates allegedly set fire to a hallway door, which caused more heavy damage to the jail and led to a temporary closure by the state Department of Corrections.

The jail had a population of about 292 inmates at the time, or 86 over capacity. Nearly all the inmates were scattered across 18 jails and prisons across the state, while eight Class D-felony offenders offenders who perform maintenance work for the county remained in temporary confinement in Boyd County at the road department headquarters.

A construction crew, Belfort Restoration, repaired the jail through a subcontract with the Kentucky Association of Counties, or KACo.

The county has since sent several insurance claims to KACo related to the riot. KACo agreed to reimburse Boyd County for up to $160,000 in damages to the contents of the jail. The insurer also agreed to provide up to $500,000 in reimbursement for extra expenses and lost income related to the jail, including compensation to the other jails and prisons for housing Boyd County’s inmates.

In mid-September, the DOC approved a partial reopening of the jail — the “old side” that houses a maximum of 90 inmates. The DOC told Burchett and the jail staff at the time they were not to exceed a 90-inmate population, and to refrain from housing state prisoners who don’t have local pending charges, according to a DOC spokesperson.

But the jail did not appear to follow the DOC’s instruction. “On Sept. 26, DOC learned of an assault at the facility at which time the population in the old section of the jail was at approximately 160. This total included over 40 state inmates,” the DOC spokesperson told The Daily Independent last month. “On this date, DOC notified jail officials they needed to find alternate housing locations for the offenders in excess of the approved total of 90.”

After the DOC learned of the assault — which involved two inmates and two jail deputies — the DOC began removing state prisoners who do not have pending local charges against them.

On Oct. 3, the DOC sent a letter to jail officials notifying them the jail passed an inspection test, and all but one cell — which needed further repair — could be reopened. The DOC letter also noted complaints made to DOC representatives by inmates during the jail inspection. Among the verbal complaints, the inmates said they weren’t being provided with clean laundry on a timely basis, or any access to grievance forms. Jail staff said the washing machine was broken, but did not explain why access to paper or digital grievance forms had been removed, according to the DOC letter.

The DOC is still denying the jail from housing state prisoners who don’t have pending local charge, as of Nov. 21. A DOC spokesperson told The Daily Independent last month the DOC is monitoring the jail’s operation to “ensure security, health and hygiene needs are met, and will keep jail officials apprised.”

The DOC “does have plans to allow the jail to house state prisoners again at some point,” but “there is not a specific time frame,” the spokesperson said.

The Boyd County jail, like many county jails across the state, had routinely housed state prisoners as a result of severe overcrowding at the state prison level. The agreement contributed heavily to the Boyd County jail’s overcrowding, but benefited the county financially. The state provides counties with $31.34 per state prisoner, per day.

The county lost $175,000 in expected state prisoner revenue since the jail riot, and is on pace to lose as much as $700,000 by the end of the fiscal year. According to Deputy Judge-Executive Ed Radjunas, the county won’t be getting the money back.

The steep decline in cash flow was unexpected by the Boyd Fiscal Court. The county anticipated $1.2-million in revenue from state prisoner compensation this fiscal year. The projected revenue would’ve supplied one-third of the jail’s $3.6-million budget.

Now, the county is weighing cuts to other departments to prevent surpassing its total budget of $19 million, according to County Judge-Executive Steve Towler.

Burchett, who’s in his 14th year as jailer and has filed to run for re-election next year, said he’s hopeful the jail will consistently operate without any major incidents.

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©2017 The Daily Independent (Ashland, Ky.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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