LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The inmate population is beginning to creep up again in Louisville's jail after more than a year of declining numbers due to COVID-19.
The jail population reached its lowest ever average population in 2020 with 1,250 inmate. But the number is climbing once again, and corrections officers worry there isn't enough staff to deal with the increase.
On Tuesday, jail officials told the jail policy committee that the average population of inmates in July was over 1,600, an increase from earlier in the year.
"It is absolutely not safe right now for our members," said Louisville Corrections FOP Lodge 77 president Daniel Johnson. "There's a natural danger to our jobs to begin with, but depending on the environment and the decisions being made, you can either make that better or worse."
According to Assistant Director of Corrections Steve Durham, three officers were injured over the weekend.
Durham said the first incident happened around 11:30 p.m. Friday, when a corrections officer's hand was injured from a "disruptive inmate." Around 1:45 a.m. Saturday, the same inmate injured another correction's officer's hand. Durham said the inmate was placed under mental health observation.
Both officers were treated and released for their injuries. The inmate was also treated for minor injuries at the jail.
"As recommended by LMDC practice regarding exposure to bodily fluids, that officer also sought medical treatment," Durham said.
Johnson said the combination of COVID-19 and low-pay is leading to a steady stream of officers leaving the jail to pursue other opportunities.
"You got to pay people more money than they can make on unemployment to take the risk to come work in a facility like the jail," he said. "Because we don't have enough staff, we are working people 70+ hours a week. You know you might have five minutes notice before the end of your shift that you're on another shift."
Johnson said the union is working to revise a contract with Louisville Metro Government that expires in 2023. Currently, he said , starting pay for a Metro Corrections officer is $17 an hour.
Meanwhile, jail leaders said they're also working on ways to get more recruits in the door and keep the officers already on board.
"We're working on some initiatives that we think will help draw more people into the door to make those applications," Durham said. "We're bending and doing out best to get people to come to work and keep good people on the job."
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