• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Drug-related crimes raise jail population

The number of inmates lodged in the Woodford County Detention Center on June 30 climbed to 121 - the largest inmate population that Jailer Michele Rankin has seen since she started working as a deputy jailer in 2010. She attributed the ballooning inmate population in the 95-bed detention facility to drug use, and crimes related to drug use. "Every jail in the state's in the same boat. We're all overpopulated," said Rankin. She said the cost of housing an inmate in a county jail escalates depending on individual circumstances. For example, costs rise when an inmate has to be transported to a hospital because he or she is experiencing drug withdrawals. A deputy jailer may have to stay with an inmate experiencing withdrawals for as long as six to eight weeks, which Rankin said, can "cause our overtime budget to go up through the roof because we have to sit with them at the hospital - 24 hours a day, seven days a week." Instead of a quick trip to the hospital to receive treatment for dehydration, Rankin said, she and her deputies are also seeing more and more cases where a person's body has been damaged by using dirty needles. Hepatitis, tuberculosis and other serious medical complications can arise in IV drug users. "So we're seeing things that are so different," said Rankin. In some cases, inmates don't even know they have contracted hepatitis C from using dirty needles, and her deputies may then be exposed to these undiagnosed inmates, she said. "This business has changed. It's changed. It's not the same business it was even two years ago," said Rankin. "We're just dealing with an epidemic with the heroin and even the fake pills now that have fentanyl in them." She said it's difficult to deal with this epidemic - and the resulting drug withdrawals - when no one knows what to expect from someone going through withdrawals, which are typically very different than alcohol withdrawals. One of her frustrations has been watching so many inmates not getting help for drug addictions because county jails, including the Woodford County Detention Center, are too small and have insufficient facilities to house a substance abuse program. And the state's in-house treatment facilities only have a limited number of beds to address a drug epidemic, which Rankin said she and other jailers across the state have not seen before. "Law enforcement and prosecutors and judges - we all have to pull together, because people are dying," said Rankin. She supports an effort by local law enforcement agencies to form a drug task force to investigate and arrest drug dealers in Bourbon, Scott and Woodford counties, but also knows that alone will not solve this drug epidemic. "The addicts are still going to find the drugs . (so) we still have to deal with the addiction. We still have to deal with the problem because an addict's an addict, and they're going to find (drugs) somewhere else," said Rankin. "But I love the fact that we're going to try to get these people (who are dealing drugs) off the street because we don't know how many people we might be saving by getting that one dealer off the street."

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