Lexington city councilmembers to visit jail amid staffing shortage

Fayette County Detention Center Jail
Posted at 10:46 PM, Apr 20, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Elected members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council plan to visit the Fayette County Detention Center Thursday, according to a councilman, corrections officers, and the mayor's office.

The visit comes amid a protracted staffing shortage at the jail.

"We have people who are sleeping in their cars because we don't have the staff," said Scott Crosbie, an attorney who represents FOP Town Branch Lodge #83.

Crosbie said the jail system in Lexington is "failing" because of chronic staffing issues. The facility has about 115 vacancies, Crosbie said.

Staffing remains an issue, despite the city and jail agreeing to a new collective bargaining contract in February. Both sides had hoped the new agreement would address staffing issues.

"We put in significant pay raises," said Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton. "And so we're starting to see the fruit of that."

Mayor Gorton's office said the city has hired 14 new employees to work at the jail. In addition, five former employees have returned, according to her office.

Crosbie said the contract appears to have helped retain employees, but he said hiring new employees remains a challenge.

"I think there was an expectation that we're going to have more officers recruited and trained to help fill the staffing shortage," he said. "So far, we really haven't seen much with respect to that."

The mayor's office also told LEX 18 there are currently 204 people on staff. FOP representatives claimed there were only 155 sworn officers as of Tuesday.

Characterizing the situation at the jail as an "emergency," Crosbie proposed the city approach Governor Andy Beshear or Attorney General Daniel Cameron about receiving help from Frankfort.

"They have to look for ways to get immediate assistance in the facility," Crosbie said. "Whether that is through seeking assistance from the governor--possibly through the National Guard."

Mayor Gorton dismissed that idea in an interview with LEX 18 Wednesday.

"There's not a path forward for the National Guard to come in there," Gorton said. "The National Guard is also not trained for inmate oversight."

Gorton conceded there are areas that need improvement, including in hiring, but she stopped short of characterizing the situation as a "crisis."

"We do recognize that we must get more employees in here and continue to lower the inmate population," she said. "And we're having good success with those efforts."