Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Senate OKs bill concerning ‘jailers with no jails’

Legislation that would require elected jailers in counties with shuttered jails to spell out their current job duties – and account for their work time – passed the state Senate by a 32-5 vote Tuesday.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, voted against the bill. Livingston County, which lies in his district, is one of 42 Kentucky counties with so-called "no-jail jailers."

Senate Bill 96 would require some fiscal courts to annually pass ordinances which outline the responsibility of their county jailer. The bill would also require the jailer to submit to the same fiscal court a summary of all official duties performed to include information related to inmate transport.

“This bill is not in any way an indictment on jailers whatsoever,” said bill sponsor Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah. “However, it is designed to build some accountability and transparency into the situations where the jailer does not have a jail to operate.”

He said the legislation was in response to media reports from last year regarding elected jailers for the 42 Kentucky counties with no jails. Most of these jailers are located in Kentucky’s least populated counties and often only ferry inmates between courthouses and regional detention centers.

Carroll said those jailers are being paid anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000 per year for a job with limited duties. In addition, there are about 100 full- and part-time jail deputies in those 42 counties, costing taxpayers another $2 million per year.

“This bill will put the impetus on the fiscal court to make sure that tax dollars are being spent efficiently and fairly,” he said. “It will hold these very few jailers that have taken advantage of the system accountable to the public that they serve.”

Carroll introduced similar legislation last session. In hopes of increasing the odds of the legislation becoming law, Carroll said this session he removed language that would have given some authority to fiscal courts to set the pay scale during election years for jailers.

“I do feel this session’s bill will still set a level of transparency and accountability,” Carroll said, adding that SB 96 is supported by the Kentucky Jailers Association.