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A second walkaway this year has led Jailer Terry Peeples to make changes to the Class D inmate work program.
Kenneth Forrester III of Crittenden was arrested 24 hours after leaving his work duty Nov. 4 at the Grant County Animal Shelter.
Peeples is hoping new policies and procedures will ensure that no inmates escape in the future.
With the exception of two state crews and the 109 Crew that cleans roads and cemeteries, the Grant County Detention Center has suspended its Class D program.
The program has low-risk inmates clean and perform other work throughout the counties, including at the Grant County Courthouse, the Justice Center in Williamstown, the Grant County Animal Shelter and the Williamstown Fire Department.
Until issues surrounding the program have been fixed, the Class D inmates will work on jail grounds to keep them occupied.
“We don’t plan on this being a permanent thing,” Peeples said. “It’s going to be until we get some areas fixed. It is not my intent or goal to put anybody under any hardship because I honestly believe the Class D program is designed to help the county. It’s for safe, free inmate labor for the county. But, the key word is safe.”
Safety trumps any assistance the inmates give the county, said Judge-Executive Darrel Link.
“The use of Class D inmates is a side benefit to other governmental departments, but security should prevail,” Link said. “The department supervisors will adjust until Terry s investigation is complete.”
Peeples said he is looking into not working inmates from Grant and Harrison counties locally to cut down on the flight risk.
The jail has already been trying to cut down on the number of local Class D inmates, according to Peeples.
At the beginning of the year, there were around 40 to 50 local inmates in the program.
That number has been cut to 19, said Peeples.
“We believe that the local inmates are more likely to walk off than someone who has to try to get to, say, Fulton County or Whitley County,” Peeples said. “So, we are not going to house local inmates in our Class D inmate program. When we get inmates who are eligible, we’ll call other facilities and try to swap out inmate for inmate.”
While the state Department of Corrections gives jails the standards for what inmates can participate in the Class D program, Peeples said he would like Grant County to be stricter about who is eligible.
“For example, anybody who has a history of escape of evading the police we’re not going to put in Class D,” he said. “We’re going to review all charges to make sure that their charges are acceptable for a Class D program. We’ve got 70 Class D inmates, so that’s going to take some time. What I didn’t want to do is identify these problems and continue to put the inmates in the community and allow something else to go wrong. We want to fix the problem before we continue to put inmates out there.”
The jail also will no longer permit contact visits for Class D inmates because Peeples believes that the majority of contraband comes into the facility during visitation with Class D inmates.
By eliminating the contact between those inmates and their visitors, the jail can cut down on items not allowed, he said.
Peeples said the jail also needs to make sure that if an inmate does walk away from work duty or escape that once law enforcement is notified, area schools, hospitals and others in the community are notified as well.
Jail officials will meet with Link and county attorney Joe Taylor to rework the policies and procedures for a vote by the fiscal court, said Peeples.
Once approved, supervisors who watch Class D inmates will have to be trained on the new policies before the program will start up fully again.
Peeples said he would like to start the program he calls “a vital resource for the county” by the beginning of the new year.
“I’m not going to sacrifice the community’s safety for anything,” he said. “If it puts the county facilities in a hardship, we apologize for that, but we feel this is a priority that needs to be addressed immediately. The people elected me to clean this jail up and I’m going to clean this jail up.”