(backdating the news…this is a month old – but important!)
Phillip M. Bailey , @phillipmbailey Published 10:52 p.m. ET April 25, 2017
Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton emphasized working with corrections staff to improve conditions at jail facilities on Wednesday afternoon, a day after rank-and-file officers moved to hold a no-confidence vote on Bolton’s leadership.
Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Fischer, said the “mayor appreciates the union’s input. Now, let’s move on to doing the difficult work at Metro Corrections and working to improve every day.”
But in a statement to the Courier-Journal late Tuesday after the correction workers’ union voted to pursue the no-confidence vote, union President Tracy Dotson said Bolton is “misrepresenting the dangerous overcrowding issue at the jail” to city officials and the media.
Dotson, whose union includes more than 500 sworn officers, said their issues with Bolton “are ridiculously many,” including workplace security, health and safety.
Bolton spokesman Steve Durham said the corrections department has seen unprecedented growth of the inmate population, due in large part to a logjam of prisoners awaiting transfer to state facilities. In February, for instance, jail officials said the population across the department’s three facilities topped 2,300 despite a designed capacity of 1,793 beds.
“The Metro Corrections jail facilities do not control who is admitted or released,” Durham said. “We will continue to work with our criminal justice partners both locally and at state levels to develop solutions that promote and enhance public safety and ensure a quality work environment for our staff.”
Dotson reiterated officers’ previous complaints, including cameras and intercoms in key areas that do not work; a refusal to meet with FOP leadership on employee issues; failure to fill job vacancies; disintegration of sworn staff training; and alleged retaliation and harassment of FOP members and leadership for participating in union activity.
Dotson said the vote on Bolton will take place in a couple of weeks.
Bolton’s leadership has been under increasing scrutiny, including a pending audit of the jail’s overcrowding issues and taxpayer costs, and the vote will be the second regarding a top public safety official in the city in recent months. In December, less than 2 percent of police FOP members said in a vote that they had confidence in police Chief Steve Conrad’s leadership.
Bolton’s office said he is committed to being transparent in his response to public safety challenges under the jail’s direct control. Durham said there are 22 recruits in the department’s current academy class, for instance.
Local jail officials also said state Corrections Commissioner Rodney Ballard has sent the city a letter on strategies to free up space in the jail and on plans to add capacity at facilities across the state, although they did not share those details.
“Commissioner Ballard expressed that these measures will significantly improve problems with capacity at Metro Corrections,” Durham said. “We certainly hold Commissioner Ballard to his word.”
Besides the union, Bolton also has been in a battle with District Court Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke, who filed a contempt order in January asking him and his top brass to explain incidents in which she alleged inmates were improperly held. Two former Louisville inmates have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that they and hundreds of others were detained in violation of their constitutional rights.
The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office has said most of Burke’s claims of noncompliance with court orders are incorrect.
Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or [email protected].