Injuries on the job prompt questions of worker and inmate safety in Louisville's juvenile jail
A Louisville agency that works with the city's most troubled kids is experiencing troubles of its own.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville agency that works with the city's most troubled kids is experiencing troubles of its own.
Employees of the city's juvenile jail are complaining of bad working conditions, and it's costing taxpayers money.
A protest Thursday outside Louisville's juvenile jail unlocked problems previously hidden from public view.
"They're tired, and they're frustrated, and they can't take it," said Dave Robertson, AFSCME 2629 staff representative. "I mean, workers are quitting left and right."
The demonstration and the data raises questions about the safety of workers and child inmates inside the jail.
"We have a lot of work do," admits Dr. Ursula Mullins, Director of Metro Louisville Youth Detention.
The LouieStat website lists the performance for every city department. The data includes areas like overtime costs and employee turnover rates. The reports are set up like a stop light. Green means good, yellow means caution and red means there's a problem. Every measurable goal at Louisville's youth detention center is in the red. But one number stands out more than most: the number of hours of lost at the juvenile detention center in one year -- 4,309.
"Being attacked by juveniles and pushing a panic button and help not arriving in appropriate timing," said Robertson of a realistic example inside the jail.
The lost work hours reported on LouieStat are specific to employees who become ill on injured on the job.
Mullins said the juvenile corrections staff is dealing with a challenging population, and at times, workers must get physical with the inmates.
"There is bending, there is lifting, there is stooping ... and that's pretty common in a facility like ours or any other correctional facility," Mullins said.
WDRB News also obtained LouiStat data for Metro Corrections. The juvenile jail lost roughly 650 more hours to on the job injury and illness than the adult jail across the street. The numbers are of note as Metro Corrections has about 2,000 more inmates than the juvenile jail.
"The important thing for citizens to see is we put all that data online for people to see where we're doing well and where we are having challenges as well," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. "(There's) a lot of OT being worked at YDS right now, but the most important thing to me is that our management and our personnel work together there. It's a tough job, so everybody needs to come together."
But when pressed on injuries and illnesses at the jail, a member of Fischer's staff pulled him aside, saying he had to leave for an 11 a.m. meeting. Fischer said he would talk more on the subject at a later time.
Going forward, the city and the state split the cost of an outside consultant to audit Louisville Youth Detention.
Staff members from the Washington D.C-based Center for Children's Law Policy visited Louisville's juvenile jail for two days last week, gathering information and interviewing for their report. The group uses the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), which is considered the best practices for incarcerating kids.
"What I hope comes out of it is they can give us a road map or some tools or areas where they can highlight and we can improve," Mullins said.
Mullins took over Metro Louisville Youth Detention in January and said she inherited many of these problems but is committed to the fix.
The audit is due back at the end of September.
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