Whitesburg KY
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Jail too full, say jurors

In its report to Letcher Circuit Judge James W. Craft II, the Letcher County Grand Jury criticized the condition of the county jail, noting that it appeared to be “extremely overcrowded” to the point “there appeared to be mattresses in one of the hallways that inmates were sleeping on.”

The grand jury also noted it was unable to view the women’s area for “security reasons,” and said the jail “is in need of painting and a thorough cleaning of the heating and cooling vents.”

The jail regularly houses about 150 prisoners, but was designed to hold only 46 men and eight women. On Monday, jail records showed 130 people incarcerated there, 32 of them women.

The final report for this term of the grand jury, which was empaneled October 5, 2017, shows the grand jury returned 294 felony indictments, three misdemeanor indictments, and nine superseding indictments in just 16 days of service.

The jury also issued “no-true bills” 31 times, meaning it did not hear enough evidence to warrant holding a trial for the accused persons. The grand jury was released on July 26. A new grand jury will be seated this month for the fall term.

In addition to indictments, state law requires grand juries to inspect the courthouse and report on problems with the building that need to be addressed. As part of its report, the jury inspected the grand jury room, the courtrooms, hallways, restrooms and public office in the courtroom, as well as the jail.

The jury made several suggestions for the fiscal court on maintenance issues in the building renovated 20 years ago — among them placing a window air conditioner and space heaters in the grand jury room.

“It is obvious the current heating and cooling system is not adequate and that despite the best efforts to repair or regulate the system, it continues to malfunction more often that not,” the jury wrote. The jury didn’t use the room, instead using a classroom in the Letcher County Health Center for testimony and deliberation.

Much of the courthouse had undergone emergency repairs after water leaks and was in better condition than other parts of the building, according to the report.

The jury, however, was not happy with the Circuit Courtroom, noting peeling paint and calling it “disgraceful that such an important state courtroom is in such disrepair.”

The report calls for repair of skylights in the circuit judge’s office, replacement of ceiling tiles in the Circuit Clerk’s office, replacement of cracked floor tiles in the hallways, and replacement of damaged blinds in the circuit courtroom.

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