Metro Corrections moves inmates to 50s era jail; overcrowding cited
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Too many inmates and not enough space. That's why Metro Corrections is moving inmates to a 1950s era jail space to reduce overcrowding -- and risking state sanctions to do it.
"Right now we're (at) 2,071. So we just can't handle these people right now," said Metro Corrections spokesperson Kelly Feiock on Monday.
The number of inmates housed Monday was too much for its current facilities -- even as inmates already sleep in just about any area big enough for a bed.
So, the agency went retro for a temporary solution, for the second time in less than two years.
Officers walked about 75 minimum security inmates to cells at the top of metro police headquarters.
It's the older part of the county jail dating back to the 1950s, and it's a place that does not meet current state jail standards.
"It's always a concern that we have that the state jail inspector may come down on us, but the alternative is to have too many people in a cell in our main facility, and that's not safe either. So, it's what can we do to be as safe as we can, and right now this is the best option," Feiock said.
It's a tradeoff that comes as local arrests go up for heroin and other drug-related offenses.
Judges can choose home incarceration or other options to keep the count manageable.
The numbers change daily, but there's room for another 75 in that older, overflow section -- one without automatic fire alarms and modern electronic security.
"One of the things we will do is actually have manual fire watches, which means we will be watching for any kind of smoke rising in the facility, because we don't have those kind of alarms going off for us," Feiock said.
"This section, called Unit 7, is not up to standards with fire suppression and smoke evacuation standards," a news release said. "It is also difficult for emergency response teams to access."
Corrections officers also must manually lock and unlock cell and dorm doors. Many of them will work sudden overtime.
"We're hoping we can get this resolved in a day or two," Feiock said.
Overtime could cost $13,000 a week, according to metro corrections officials.
WDRB News archives show at least two studies or blue-ribbon panels commissioned about jail overcrowding going back to 2008, but with little concrete results.
The situation could convince Metro Council to spend as much $300,000 for renovation of the old area next year, officials said.
State corrections and jail facilities officials were not available for comment late Monday. Calls to a senior district judge were not returned.
Official jail capacity for all of Metro Corrections facilities is 1,793 inmates. The agency routinely houses hundreds more than that. The extreme measures taken Monday come when the inmate population exceed 2,000 on a daily basis.
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