SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT: WDRB goes inside Louisville Metro Corrections
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- WDRB News has gone inside Louisville Metro Corrections to give you a behind-the-scenes look at some areas where only authorized personnel can go.
"We deal with subjects who have a history of combativeness," said Louisville Metro Corrections officer Jason Burba.
For the first time, we're getting an in-depth look at Louisville Metro Corrections and what goes on there. WDRB spent hours inside the jail this week -- and we have obtained video captured by Louisville Metro Corrections' new body cameras.
On one of the videos: a man yells and bangs his head on the door, upset after he learned that he was mistaken when he thought he was going to be released from jail. The department has five body cameras so far, with 12 more on order, costing $900 a piece -- and they're used to capture moments like this.
"It's basically the Corrections version of a dash cam in a police car," said Mark Bolton, director of Louisville Metro Corrections.
Burba wears a camera that is the size of a pager and is clipped on to his chest.
"Basically anytime you think an incident is going to happen, or something seems like a potential is there for it to happen, you can check out one of these, or if you're wearing it, you can just push down like this and expose the green camera," he said.
Burba is part of the Special Operations Response Team. In one video, SORT moves in and restrains another inmate. They say he was also excessively beating on his door injuring himself, and flooded his cell. They say he was angry over food, not being able to get an extra tray.
The food at Louisville Metro Corrections seems to be the talk of the inmate population.
Inmate Michael Starkey says, "Today is bologna sandwiches and pasta salad."
Inside a huge kitchen is where all the meals are prepared. Metro Corrections say minimum security inmates prep the food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Patrick Daugherty, an inmate says, "Rolling sandwiches for the jail, they call them Szabos."
This is a staple here where inmates get four slices of bread, some cheese, two mustard packets and the meat is a bologna turkey mix.
Daugherty says, "You get used to them, if you're a bologna eater."
Daugherty, like others, works 12-hour shifts and says it makes time go by fast as he serves out his sentence.
Mark Bolton, the Louisville Metro Corrections Director says, "We serve about 2,200,000 meals here per year. Our raw food cost is about 83 cents per meal," said Bolton.
Szabos, which is actually the name of a food service company that used to make the sandwiches, are all rolled together with a cookie on top. You'll find inmates making hundreds of cookies.
"I'm the cookie guy," said CJ Rickett, an inmate. "People come here, eat a cookie, thanking me."
On the menu is also a bland macaroni salad. When it's time to eat, inmates roll carts to the dorms or cells where prisoners then line up for the food.
Louisville Metro Corrections says the average inmate diet is 2,800 calories a day, and $2.7 million is spent on food each year.
But for inmates who don't like what they're eating and have money, they can buy things like candy bars and pastries in the Commissary.
Sgt. Sam Broome who has been with Louisville Metro Corrections for 14 years, says ramen noodles are the most popular.
"This right here can pretty much buy you anything you want," Broome said. "They'll trade this. This is the big commodity here. They buy things. They sell things through this item here."
Inmates pay what's equivalent to convenience store prices for the items. The money goes back into inmate programs.
Broome says, "Over here is another commodity. Your coffee, they sell this stuff. This stuff here is precious."
Louisville Metro Corrections is like a city within a city. They say what you get on the outside, you can find here too.
Metro Corrections designates a person to be the barber to give haircuts, knowing that person has to be responsible since they are using scissors and razors.
The jail is often full because there are nearly 42,000 bookings each year. The most common charge is theft, then DUI, then traffic.
When inmates are booked, they're patted down and have to remove any jewelry. They can only keep on one layer of clothing, along with their undergarments.
Broome says, "This box here is called an Amnesty Box. Whenever someone comes in here, and you say to them, 'Got any drugs left?' They say, 'Yes, I've got some drugs.' You can deposit in here and there will be no charges."
Some people will use creative ways to try and sneak in prohibited items.
"We have just found a litany of dangerous and significant contraband," Bolton said.
But a $250,000 body scanner is now finding a bag of marijuana, more drugs, cigarettes, lighters and even a $5 bill and partial cigarette in places too graphic to mention.
Broome says, "We had a female with a cell phone inside of her. We've had packs of cigarettes, syringes."
Inside the jail, some inmates are housed in the general population. You can find them playing chess, talking -- even cleaning.
But you'll also find the single cells where inmates are placed for their safety or because of disciplinary problems. One private cell has a small sink and toilet and inmates use creative ways to decorate, like taking toothpaste to glue a magazine picture to a light.
Many TV's are now placed on the outside of cells because of safety concerns. Burba says,
"We had an incident where an inmate had broke a TV and made a spear out of glass and was threatening to stab officers when they came in there," Burba said.
Inmates are allowed visitations. They now use video conferencing, so if things get inappropriate, Louisville Metro Corrections says it can turn off the video feed.
Some inmates have made Metro Corrections their home, returning over and over again. Others know one time here is enough.
"I try not to think about being out there, but it's hard not to," Daugherty said. "I got family out there. I got kids out there. I miss them, but this is not a place I want them to come see me at."
Burba and other corrections officers say it's a tough job here, being yelled at sometimes, but they love the responsibility of keeping the jail safe for inmates and themselves.
What keeps Burba doing this job?
"The pay isn't bad, but you retire in 20 years," Burba said. "With me, I can retire at 43, which is pretty positive."
Copyright 2013 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.