Jail reports: overcrowding is a major issue throughout the Commonwealth

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Jails across the nation are facing a major issue, and jails in south-central Kentucky are no exception. They are housing far too many inmates.

Several local jails are over capacity by 30-60%.

Jail officials say overpopulation can lead to more crime inside of the jail walls as well as spread sickness.

Funding for jails is one of the top ticket items for expenditures of tax dollars in most regional counties, but local jailers say the number of inmates brought to them is out of their control.

The Warren County Regional Jail has 562 beds but averaged 742 inmates last year at any given time.

The Butler County Jail has 36 beds with 52 inmates on average throughout 2019.

the Barren County Detention Center has 178 beds with 282 inmates on average throughout 2019.

It took $8,349,374 to run the jail in 2019, but only $677,868 came from the county. The other 7.5 million came from state and federal money for housing federal and state inmates.

The Warren County jailer says keeping finances and overcrowding balanced can be a struggle, and says lawmakers are aware of the issue.

“Some of the top concerns in the state right now are jail overcrowdedness, what it takes to run the prison systems. There is a lot of talk about criminal justice reform. So, it’s on everybody’s agenda. Now, it’s just waiting to see what the options are going to be,” said Warren County Jailer Stephen Harmon.

The Warren County Regional Jail is looking to expand or relocate in the near future to house more inmates, but until then, Harmon says they are budgeting very carefully.

The Simpson County Jail had 22 inmates earn their G.E.D., $38,550 in restitution collected, $73,770 in child support collected, and 294 completions of evidence-based programs in 2019.

The goal of all of the programs and money collected is to allow inmates to repay their debts and assist in their success upon release, thus reducing their likelihood to return to jail in the future.

“Until we start doing things and being proactive instead of reactive, we are going to have the same problems regardless. It is not a problem we can build our way out of. We have to find a true solution for it, and we think programs are it,” said Lieutenant Ashley Penn, program director for Simpson County Jail.

The Simpson County jail also had 242,520 community service hours worked by inmates in 2019 as well as an estimated nearly $3,000,000 in savings to the state and community through their programs.