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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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HomeOpinionColumnAre prison and jail inmates and their keepers doomed to destruction?

Are prison and jail inmates and their keepers doomed to destruction?

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

A lawsuit filed in an Arkansas federal court last week is seeking millions in damages for the family of a prisoner who allegedly starved to death while being held in a county jail for
more than a year because he could not post a $100 bond on a traffic violation.

Tragically, the male inmate had serious mental issues and supposedly was largely ignored by the corrections officers who regularly reported he was in good health while his weight was dropping from 160 to about 100 pounds.

A criminal investigation has been started as a result of the claims in the lawsuit as the
county government, the jailer and other personnel involved start preparing to defend
themselves in court.

The Louisville Metro Detention Center in our state’s largest city has been plagued by a
series of inmate deaths over the last year or so. One of the explanations for the lack of
constant surveillance in that facility is understaffing that seems to be getting worse.

Lexington’s metro jail also is struggling with a shortage of corrections officers that has
prompted its union to threaten a strike. The state prison system is aggressively recruiting staffmembers as the exodus of experienced corrections officers continues at all levels.

The General Assembly will be coming back to Frankfort next month to finish this year’s
legislative session. High on the priority list is ending the chaos reported also daily in the
juvenile justice system.

For starters, Gov. Andy Beshear ordered female juveniles be housed in a single facility.
Underaged males charged with crimes of violence also are being removed from the general
population and moved to separate prisons.

Surely no one is proud of the fact that Kentucky today has a 50 percent higher
percentage of prison and jail inmates than the average of all 50 states. Of every 100,000
Kentuckians, about 930 are behind bars in a local, state, or federal lockup.

Each time a new prison opens or is expanded, folks like to talk about the number of new
jobs with decent pay and good benefits. The sad truth is that too many of the jobs in prisons today are dangerous to physical and mental health.

We simply must find better ways to incarcerate lawbreakers humanely without injuring
them or those responsible for their care.

Contact Keith at keithkappes@gmail.com

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