Metro Corrections to house inmates in gyms because of overcrowding
"It’s another housing unit," Metro Corrections spokesman Steve Durham said of the gyms at the jail and courthouse. "With a taller ceiling."
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two months after overcrowding at Louisville Metro Corrections prompted officials to move dozens of inmates to an unused, illegal jail built in the 1950s, that old jail has now reached capacity.
Metro Corrections officials have begun preparing to move inmates into temporary housing in gyms at both the jail and the Hall of Justice downtown, bringing in portable showers, toilets and beds.
Though deemed unsafe by state officials, the 60-year-old former jail above Louisville Metro Police headquarters has been used for the last few months to alleviate overcrowding in Metro Corrections.
But now the old jail has reached its capacity of 126 inmates.
Steve Durham, a spokesman for Metro Corrections, said the gyms are being outfitted to bring in inmates, a move he says is safe.
"It’s another housing unit," he said. "With a taller ceiling."
Jefferson District Court Judge Sean Delahanty, who has criticized the move to put inmates in the old jail, which lacks necessary fire safety systems and has failed to meet state certification requirements for decades, said housing defendants in gyms is another short-term, flawed solution.
"Now we are going to fill the gyms up," he said in an interview. "What do we do after that? We seem incapable of controlling our population."
Delahanty said state officials need to step in, pointing out that the state sent a letter a few years ago that ordered Metro Corrections not to house inmates at the old jail.
The old jail -- which was closed completely in 2008 -- is still in violation of state standards, and, according to a past state inspection, is "a considerable threat to the safety of the inmates that are housed there" and an accident "waiting to happen."
"They are not prepared to enforce their order," Delahanty said of the state, which has its own overcrowding issues.
Asked about the situation with the old jail, Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, said they have been in regular contact with Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton on population issues.
"We understand his concerns and are exploring every avenue to alleviate his overcrowding and that of other jails," she said in an email.
Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley told legislators last week that county jails and prisons are overcrowded and the state may need to reopen private prisons to temporarily take in hundreds of inmates.
Inmate capacity at Metro Corrections is 1,793, including 370 beds in the Hall of Justice at Sixth and Jefferson streets and 440 beds at the Community Corrections Center, a minimum-security facility on East Chestnut Street.
The inmate population is currently at 2,146 inmates, Durham said.
While the gyms are being prepared, Durham said they will increase capacity in minimum security dorms.
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