By: Jeremy D. WellsCarter County Times
Carter County voters have some important choices to make this fall, and while some roles – like Judge Executive – will feature new faces no matter who wins, others come down to a choice between continuing on the path we’ve been on or trying something new.
That’s the choice that will be placed before voters in the jailer race where incumbent R.W. Boggs (R) is facing challenger Charles Kiser (D).
The pair took questions from the community last Thursday, during the Olive Hill Chamber of Commerce’s final meet the candidates forum. The event started with opening statements, where Boggs touted his experience as a jailer and Kiser, who has made his career as an accountant, discussed his motivations for running despite an admitted lack of experience.
“I’ve been your jailer here for, this is my twelfth year,” Boggs began. During that time he’s gotten to know the community, an important part of his role he said.
“I really enjoy what we’ve done,” he continued. “In 2010, I read a headline that said, ‘Jail’s bleeding the county dry.’ That’s the entire reason I ran.” He explained that he was confident he could fix that problem, and that he already had a long career in law enforcement and corrections, having worked in the field since he was 18. He said he felt he could have a positive impact on the jail’s finances, and, he added, “I feel it’s been quite proven that we’ve affected that well over the course of the last 12 years. And I’m asking you all to give me another shot at it.”
Kiser said he was running because of rumors of tension between Boggs and some courthouse staff, and the importance of good working relations between departments. While he wasn’t specific he may have been referring to a lawsuit between Boggs’ girlfriend and the county. That suit makes claims of a hostile work environment during her time with the health department and names the judge executive’s office and staff as defendants, among others.
“I was asked to run, and it would be an honor to hold any elected position in Carter County,” Kiser said. “Many people in the courthouse asked me to run because there was animosity from the courthouse toward the jail. Okay? I don’t have any experience in jails, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never been.”
The first question placed before the candidates was about how inmate labor could be used to save the county on labor expenses, and how work programs benefited inmates.
“We actually already do a lot that alleviates county expenses,” Boggs said, noting how inmate work crews were utilized during ice storm and flood cleanup, and explaining that crews had done work in Olive Hill, Grayson, and around Grayson Lake, and had recently cut some grass and cleared brush to improve visibility along county roadways. When he took over, he said, they only had a half-crew of trustees, and now they have two full crews that work “all over the place,” and he would like to expand that.
When presented with the same question Kiser insinuated that Boggs’ road crews may have been responsible for vandalism of his signs.
“A lot of my signs have been knocked down,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know who’s doing it. But the East Carter (parents) asked if you still paint the fields. You used to paint the fields years ago on Thursday night.”
He said he told them if he was elected, “if it was within the realm of possibility,” he would have the fields painted. He said although he hadn’t been asked by West Carter, he’d recommend that as well. “There would be no reason why they would do one and not the other.”
The next question was about maintaining and growing revenue streams, and went to Kiser first. He noted that one of the main revenue streams was from federal inmates but said that he had heard inmates that used to go to Carter County were now being shipped to Boyd County. “I heard on good authority that they have 30 federal inmates at Boyd County, which, because we don’t get them, (we’ve lost) 470 some thousand dollars supposedly.” Kiser said, shrugging. “They asked me about that. I don’t know, I mean, that’s just the federal.”
Boggs was eager to respond when the same question was presented to him. “What’s funny, Boyd County has 30 some (federal inmates) right now,” Boggs said. “Grayson County has 187 right now. I (Carter County) have 83 right now. There are jails all over the state that (house) federal prisoners.”
He explained that housing has some to do with maintaining good relations with the feds, but also with proximity to where the inmates will be released or where they have court hearings.
He said they’ve been fortunate to maintain a regular contract with the federal penitentiary system.
“There are 83 in there today,” he said. “That will fluctuate anywhere between 70 to 85. That is the bulk of what we bring in.”
He said it was the nature of campaigns that rumors would swirl.
“You’ll, you know, hear rumors. ‘Well they don’t have no federal inmates.’ If I didn’t have any federal inmates, this county (jail system) wouldn’t have a penny. And right now, we’re probably at the top of the game as far as what we do in the federal (system). And not only with just the federal inmates. We’ve picked up the ICE contract where we transport as well, which was the other very fortunate revenue stream that we had.”
“Anyone in here that believes otherwise, all you have to do is go up to the courthouse, go into… the treasurer’s office, and say, ‘Hey, how much money did we make this month on federal inmates?’ Which would be about $138,419. How much did we make the month prior to that? Roughly about the same. How much did we make in a year? $1.2 (million) to $1.8 (million) right in there. According to how good the year goes. But we do a great job with that.”
The next question, to Boggs first, was about how to utilize funds once the jail was paid off.
Boggs said, he would like to look at investing in a “restricted custody building.” That would allow him to increase work programs, by housing the work crews separately, he explained. It would also allow them to add classroom space where they could offer more continuing education and drug interdiction programs.
“I mean, there are endless possibilities if we can get that building,” Boggs said.
Kiser said he would have to put more thought into that particular question, but would have an answer by the time he took office if elected. “It’s pretty hard for me to answer that,” Kiser said. “I’ve never been to jail. I’d have to sit down (and think about it.) I’d like to run the jail more like an accountant. I’ve got 30 years of accounting experience. I have no experience in law enforcement.”
The pair also discussed inmate programs to reduce recidivism, visitation policy, and access. While Boggs said they weren’t allowing any face-to-face visitation since the pandemic, online visitation has boosted morale, and those who can’t access the internet from home can use visitation kiosks in the jail lobby.
Kiser said that, as an accountant, the lack of access was frustrating to him. “It’s increasingly frustrating for me as an accountant,” he said. “Because I have many refunds, federal refunds, that I can’t get to these people because they’re incarcerated. I can’t get to them to sign them. I can’t do anything with that. They’re really, they’re such a stickler for the rules… I don’t know if it’s a federal policy or what, but I can’t give these federal checks to these people, and I do have to deal with that every year.”
Both men pledged, if elected, to do their best to keep the jail from becoming a drain on the county budget once again.
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