By James Mayse
DAVIESS COUNTY, Ky. — The Daviess County Detention Center’s work crews were sidelined by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in March, as the state Department of Corrections worked out a plan to limit state inmates’ exposure to the virus.
While the jail would like to restart sending out work crews, DOC regulations on state workers have halted the crews for an unknown period of time.
Jailer Art Maglinger said the state has put restrictions on who the state inmate workers can come into contact with in and out of the jail. Because of the way state workers on crews are housed, the jail can’t meet those requirements, Maglinger said.
For Daviess jail officials, the state regulations are “almost impossible standards to meet,” Maglinger said Friday.
Certain low-offense state inmates serving sentences in county jails are eligible to serve on work crews. In exchange, they receive a small daily payment, and the work counts as a credit toward their sentences.
In Daviess County, state inmates work at the county landfill, transfer station and animal shelter, while others work on a Department of Transportation road crew. A community service crew of state inmates also does work in the city and county.
DOC officials had asked jails to submit plans on how they would restart work crews.
Maglinger said the jail’s command staff submitted their plan to the DOC on June 11, and were asked to get input from the Green River District Health Department. The jail staff adjusted the plan for health department recommendations and resubmitted it on June 15.
“We felt like it was a comprehensive plan,” Maglinger said, adding that the plan implemented “best practices” for utilizing the crews during the pandemic.
But state corrections officials replied that inmates can’t come into contact with anyone not on the jail staff, which means they couldn’t be around highway department road supervisors or any other supervisor who was not a deputy.
Even for crews that are supervised by deputies, the state requires they be housed away from other inmates. The jail’s state inmates on crews are housed in Building 3, where they share recreation and dining space with other low-level inmates.
Inmates on work crews would essentially have to be quarantined when they weren’t on jobs, Maglinger said.
“They are almost penalized for being on a work crew,” Maglinger said. “We felt they were unreasonable requests The challenge logistically is the housing of the inmates. State inmates who work inside the jail on maintenance, in the garden and on other jobs, are working.”
Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said the work that jail crews usually provide is being done by temporary workers.
“The jailer and I talked about those (issues) and I’m in agreement with him,” Mattlingly said. “I don’t see how we can meet those standards.”
The county will wait until DOC creates standards for state work crews, Mattingly said.
“We had to hire temporary employees, because we run such a lean ship anyway,” Mattingly said. “We couldn’t pick up what the jail crews were doing.”
But the county is eligible to have the cost of the temporary employees covered by the federal CARES Act, because they are coronavirus-related expenses, Mattingly said.
©2020 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)