Concerns about conditions inside troubled halfway house

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A troubled halfway house losing dangerous offenders every day is receiving millions in taxpayer money. Conditions inside Community Transitional Services (CTS) may be pushing fugitives into a neighborhood filled with children. 

One CTS resident who did not give WDRB News a name said, "There's a lot of problems, a lot of people don't like it.  Bed bugs, it's dirty."

It is the one voice Community Transitional services did not want us to hear.  Speaking of people leaving the facility, the resident continued, "I mean, it's every day. We had six last night and one this morning."

According to the Kentucky Department of Corrections 329 CTS assigned offenders have left illegally so far this year, and nearly 1,000 have left since 2010, including drug addicts, sex offenders and thieves. They are now fugitives in a community surrounded by schools, daycares, and a park.

The resident who spoke to us came out saying he was on approved leave from the property near the corner of 15th St. and Jefferson St.  He quickly walked away.

Kentucky Corrections Commissioner Ladonna Thompson refused to speak to WDRB News on the issues of runaways at CTS.  Perhaps that's because taxpayers are keeping it open -- $6.8 million paid to the facility and its owners Clark Property Management in just two years.

Thompson's office released a statement: "DOC reviews all complaints received and investigates those complaints when warranted, directing corrective action when appropriate."

But Charles Stockton, who just completed the program at CTS, says, "It was hell, man."  Stockton says offenders are running to escape inhumane conditions:  "I was indigent and they never gave me any soap, or deodorant. They never gave me nothing."

Stockton continues:  "I went almost two weeks without any blood pressure medicine, any cholesterol medicine, or aspirin. I wrote request, after request, after request, and it was like they didn't do anything. Like, nothing happened."

He says he also lived within a bedbug infestation:  "I was covered from head to toe, I mean I welted up big."

WDRB exclusively obtained e-mails, state records, and reports showing Stockton is far from the only one complaining.  Connie Mendel of Metro Public Health and Wellness says, "On some visits we were able to identify either bed bugs or evidence of bed bugs, their shells, eggs, or fecal material."  The agency has received 15 reports on CTS and issued three citations since 2011.

When WDRB's Gilbert Corsey toured the facility he and photographer Lee Atherton had to play by managers' rules, meaning they couldn't show faces or talk to inmates inside.  "I gave you guys notice on these questions a day in advance," Corsey told managers.  "There is an absconder issue here. We would like you guys to address it."  Jason Underwood with Clark Management replied, "Not going to address it on camera, sorry."

Corsey suggested, "To the public this may seem like you're hiding from a public safety issue."  Underwood's reply:  "I understand."

Off camera, Steve Smith, a partial owner of CTS, said the facility implemented a detailed bed bug protocol.  But during the tour the problems still appeared evident, as our crew saw at least one person scratching, with red dots on his leg.

"It was crazy in there," Stockton said, "I mean the rules changed every day."

In an e-mail with corrections investigators found, CTS did deny some medical requests.  Managers say they were only for non-critical patients.  The state recommended all approvals should funnel through one person.

Stockton called out to his sister for help.  Velinda Roman says, "I got this little care package together and put all of his necessities for hygiene in this box." 

She notified the health department about the bugs, but CTS sent her care package back when she tried to send him soap.  "And it just broke my heart," she says, "because I was helpless to do anything to help his situation."

Managers say in the past, offenders tried to sneak drugs into the facility in outside packages.  The facility has a commissary, yet we found a $3 bottle of body wash marked up to $6.75.

That's a noticeable discrepancy, as according to an e-mail, Kentucky Corrections ordered CTS to offer its residents a hygiene pack once a week.

Issues of staff conduct are also a recurring theme. 

"They talk down to you like you're a dog, man," said Stockton.

In one report, the director of CTS is documented as cursing at a corrections investigator during a surprise visit.

Our tour concluded with a look in all 16 dorm rooms, where there were no bed bugs on that day.  The Louisville Health Department says the facility is currently compliant and its license remains in good standing with the state.

Smith says his staff has launched a buddy program and welcome program trying to get more offenders graduating.  But the offender who refused to provide a name maintains, "It's not run right."

The people living there say to really address runaways outside, the state should take a more serious look inside.  Stockton says, "I don't think anybody there is getting any kind of recovery. I really, really don't."

CTS houses the largest privately owned substance abuse program in the state.

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