Saturday, May 17, 2003

Grant Co. jailer on the defense after four prisoners file lawsuits

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH - Grant County Jailer Steve Kellam appeared before an emergency session of Pendleton Fiscal Court on Friday to defend his jail against allegations of inmate abuse.

"I will assure you the Grant County Detention Center is a professionally run facility," said Kellam, a former Kentucky state trooper. "I take great pride in what I do. As many of you know, I come from a place that has high standards, and I hold my staff to the highest standard."

Fiscal court called the unusual Friday afternoon meeting after learning two of four former inmates who claim to have been assaulted at the jail are from Pendleton County.

"I called this meeting because (law) requires the county to provide a safe place for its prisoners," said Pendleton County Judge-executive Henry Bertram. "We want assurances that this is the case."

After hearing from Kellam, fiscal court voted unanimously to continue to send its prisoners to Grant County. Bertram said, however, that fiscal court would hold off on renewing a yearly contract with Grant County to house it prisoners until all the allegations of abuse have been investigated. Pendleton County closed its jail in November 2000.

Kellam let his attorney, Tom Nienaber, field most of the questions from the six-person fiscal court.

"I let the Commonwealth of Kentucky speak to the conditions at the jail," Nienaber said while holding up a 37-page state inspection that praised the jail. "This inspection was completed on April 2 and the only problems it found was a clogged up floor drain, a bunk bed not secured to the floor, and the wash temperature not hot enough for the dish machine. Does this sound like a place where inmates are abused?"

Steve Berry, director of local facilities for the Department of Corrections in Frankfort, wrote in the inspection that "overall the jail appeared clean and well run."

Friday's appearance marked the first public comment by Kellam and his attorney since an 18-year-old man filed what became the first of four federal lawsuits. The young man, who is not being identified because of the nature of the attack, claims he was assaulted and molested by fellow inmates.

It was followed on May 9 by a suit by John Nelson Taylor, 27, of Grant County. He says he was assaulted by guards while serving time on a drug conviction.

On Thursday, Todd Cox, 36, of Falmouth filed suit, claiming he was assaulted by guards after being arrested for driving drunk.

Then, on Friday, a 24-year-old Grant County resident with a mental handicap filed suit in federal court claiming he was abused while serving time for violating the terms of his previously imposed probation by Grant District Court.

The 24-year-old, who the Enquirer is not identifying because of the nature of the attack, said he was placed in a cell in November with a federal prisoner considered dangerous and serving a life sentence. The federal prisoner, not identified in the suit, then allegedly raped and sodomized the 24-year-old.

The suit claims deputy jailers on duty falsely publicized to others in the jail that the man was serving time for molesting a child, knowing how alleged child molesters are treated in such facilities.

The man was placed with the convicted felon, according to the suit, after not properly being interviewed by the jail's intake staff while being booked in. The man's attorney, Don Nageleisen, says in the suit that jail staff should have known about the man's mental handicap because his client's mother worked for clergy within the jail and informed the staff of her son's condition.

Nienaber and Kellam had not received a copy of the suit prior to the beginning of the fiscal court meeting and had no comment on the man's claims.


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