Leaders Want Meeting Over Halfway House Policies
By Bill Hughes
PADUCAH, KY - County leaders are asking for more information from the state about policies regarding Keeton Correction Facility on South 7th Street, after a man walked away from there Thursday, stealing and wrecking two cars and assaulting a law enforcement officer before he was caught.

At Monday's Fiscal Court meeting, Commissioner Bill Bartleman recognized Deputy Roger Simons, who returned to work just a few days after he was assaulted by James Booker, who stole Simons' cruiser after the first crash on I-24. Bartleman said he's spoken to leaders at several law enforcement agencies who share his concerns about how inmates are assigned to the lax environment of the halfway house, and how the staff is trained.

Bartleman said, "I fear that it's a tragedy waiting to happen from people, inmates escaping from that facility." 

He also said Kentucky State Police told him they get "a lot of calls" from the facility to investigate inmates who have contraband after returning from work-release programs.

Bartleman said current policy requires State Police to be called if someone escapes, but they may be passing by the local sheriff's department or police station as they flee.

"City officers would be on patrol and nobody would know to even be on the lookout for them," he said. 

Bartleman read the following letter he wrote to Secretary John Tilley of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, detailing Thursday's incident and questioning why Booker was placed at the facility after reviewing his criminal record:

Dear Secretary Tilley:

One of the top priorities of elected officials in McCracken County is to do all we can to protect not only the residents of McCracken County, but residents of the entire Commonwealth.

As a McCracken County commissioner and during my previous 39-year career as a reporter for the Paducah Sun, one of my greatest safety concerns for the community has been the operation of the Paducah Community Center, the halfway house operated by Keeton Corrections. It has a long history of inmate incidents and escapes.

The most recent incident was on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, when a Keeton inmate escaped, stole a car, crashed on I-24, assaulted a deputy sheriff, stole the deputy’s cruiser, traveled at speeds well in excess of 120 miles an hour, crashed again and totaled the vehicle owned by McCracken County. It was only by the grace of God that no law enforcement officer or innocent citizen suffered serious injury.

It is my understanding that the inmate in question had an extensive criminal record that includes felony gun possession, fleeing from police and other serious felonies. I also understand that he had an outstanding felony warrant from Tennessee which raises a serious question as to why he was placed in a halfway house with limited security.

There is a long history of what appears to be poor management at the Paducah Community Center halfway house including questions about employee training, inmate oversight and supervision. The long history of escapes and safety threats to the community is documented in press clippings and should be well documented in Department of Corrections records. I fear that the poor operation of the center is a tragedy waiting to happen. The Justice Cabinet and DOC need to take action before some innocent citizen or law enforcement officer suffers a serious injury or death.

I request that you or your designee and Department of Corrections personnel involved in overseeing the operation of halfway houses and the assignment of inmates to the Keeton Corrections facility come to Paducah for a meeting to discuss the halfway house operated by Keeton and answer questions. Local law enforcement officials share their concerns about the halfway house and echoed the need for a meeting which they would attend.

McCracken Sheriff Jon Hayden expressed his concerns about the most recent incident and history of Keeton’s operations on his department’s Facebook page.

If you and the DOC staff are unable to come to Paducah, we will come to Frankfort. The meeting needs to be held sooner, rather than later and I ask that it be held no later than Dec. 1, 2017.

I look forward to hearing from you no later than Friday, Nov. 17.

Yours truly,

Bill Bartleman
McCracken County Commissioner

Over the weekend, McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden expressed concerns similar to those of Bartleman. 

Published 02:42 AM, Tuesday Nov. 14, 2017
Updated 05:44 AM, Wednesday Nov. 15, 2017

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