No reason to keep using Frankfort’s jail

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Let Roberts stare at empty cell, ruined budget

By Ben Carlson

Column as I see ’em …
The days of taxpayers here subsidizing the jail in Franklin County should be over.
Our inmates can be transported to the moon for all I care, so long as our police officers and jailer never again have to deal with Franklin County Jailer Billy Roberts.
During last Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting, our jailer, Joani Clark, had finally had enough and told magistrates about Roberts’ behavior, and that she is negotiating with Shelby County to move our inmates there.
“I can get along with anyone,” she said. “But I don’t appreciate getting those screaming phone calls.”
Sheriff Troy Young and County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis backed her up, with Lewis saying Roberts was “not very professional” during a meeting to settle differences, and Young chiming in that he was “rude.”
Having worked professionally with all three, I’d wager a week’s pay that they are telling nothing but the truth, so help them God.
Roberts, I’ve been told, has been in town twice during the past couple of weeks trying to smooth things over the Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway.
Of course he has. He knows full well that Clark is shopping for a new jail, and understands what a financial mess it will create for taxpayers in Franklin County if she is successful.
Were I Conway, Clark or anyone else able to make such a decision, I’d tell Roberts to go back to his jail and stare at the 50-plus empty jail cells that used to house Anderson inmates on a daily basis.
Then I’d tell him to stare at the $500,000-plus hole in his jail budget — the amount taxpayers here shell out each year for Roberts’ jail to house our inmates.
For those who don’t know Clark, she’s been jailer here for years and is regarded around Kentucky as one of the state’s best and brightest. That she has served as the state jailer’s association’s president is proof enough.
At home, she is perhaps the best fiscal watchdog the county has. Nothing can bust a county’s budget quicker than inmates, especially ones with medical problems for which taxpayers are required to pay. She is constantly looking for better, more efficient ways to handle inmates, and saves taxpayers an incredible amount of money each year.
More importantly, Clark is genuinely one of the friendliest, most decent people one could ever hope to meet. I’ve watched her bring literally hundreds of shackled prisoners into Circuit Court, and even they seem to like her quite well.
Yes, transporting our inmates back and forth from Shelby County take longer and cost more, but that would likely be offset by the sheriff not having to fetch prisoners from far-flung jails because Roberts simply refuses to accept some of those with mental or drug issues, according to Clark.
Even if it does cost us a bit more, it would be nothing compared to the potential cost Franklin County taxpayers would have to cover once our half-million bucks are extracted from their county budget.
If that happens, I’d hate to be Roberts the next time he stands for re-election, although I’d sure like to cover the race.

Speaking of inmates, I’m looking forward to the day when those who sell so-called bath salts to those looking for a quick high are rightfully arrested and jailed.
For those who haven’t heard, bath salts is a kind name for some insidious drugs that allegedly repel insects and are sold in some gas stations and convenience stores.
Instead, people are using them to get high and, in some cases, to die.
The state is considering outlawing them, and only common sense is standing in the way of doing so.
Curious, I checked with local EMS officials who said they have recently transported two young people to area hospitals after they got tangled up with these drugs.
EMS Director Bart Powell said both were near death when they got to them.
I snooped around local gas stations but didn’t see any of these products on display. One operator admitted he used to sell them, but stopped months ago.
That doesn’t mean these products aren’t being sold — just not in plain sight.
It’s amazing that our lawmakers should even have to consider outlawing this garbage — and that anyone with a conscious would even consider selling it.

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