Boyd County votes for new jailer after problems plague the detention center

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BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- After more than a year of serious problems at the Boyd County Detention Center, the jail has a new leader.

Bill Hensley was elected to the jailer position Tuesday.

"The jail's an area that really hasn't been a positive," said Republican candidate Bill Hensley. "I know I can take it and turn it into a positive."

The new jailer has decades of law enforcement experience. Hensley was an Ashland Police officer.

One of the main concerns he wants to address is staffing. Hensley says making sure the jail deputies are trained and have experience is important. He adds he would work with the state department of corrections to implement changes.

Since the spring of 2017, our sister-station WSAZ has been reporting on a growing list of issues and incidents coming from the embattled jail.

Those reports have ranged from overdoses, escapes, employees and inmates smuggling drugs, wrongful releases, and even a riot started by inmates that closed the jail for one month.

During the campaign, the jailer hopefuls told WSAZ transparency with both the public and law enforcement has been neglected from the jail. There have been instances where no one was immediately notified when an inmate escaped. In July, the jail wrongfully released an inmate and he wasn't brought back into custody until September. They say a fix for that is setting up an alert system that tells all parties involved, including police, media, and residents of any issues.

"I want to set up an emergency alert system and work with area law enforcement and the news media," Akers said. "I want the people and citizens of Boyd County to know they're secure also and that this is going on."

He also plans to review the infrastructure of the jail. Several of the escapes have stemmed from inmates finding unsecure areas and then getting to the roof and jumping.

Many have asked why the previous jailer wasn’t removed or fired from his position after all the issues, but because he was an elected official, Joe Burchett was protected by the Kentucky Constitution. However, shortly after an escape on Thanksgiving Day in 2017, Boyd County Commonwealth Attorney Rhonda Copley said she met with law enforcement agencies to begin gathering evidence for a criminal malfeasance investigation against Burchett.

A grand jury later indicted Burchett. The case has yet to go to trial. If Burchett is found guilty, he faces a fine. If it is before his term ends in December, he will be vacated from the position and an interim jailer will be named until the new jailer takes over.

In September, a grand jury also recommended policies the jail should put in place to avoid further issues.

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