Friday, June 13, 2003

Officers adopt new jail policy

Pendleton County photos meant to ensure prisoners' safety

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH - Pendleton County has taken an unorthodox approach to promote prisoner safety at the embattled Grant County jail.

Pendleton County sheriff's deputies have been ordered to take a snapshot of every prisoner booked into the jail, which serves both Grant and Pendleton counties, as evidence that could be used in any future claims of inmate abuse.

"Effective this date all units are required to photograph prisoners once they have arrived at Grant Co. Detention Center," Chief Deputy Craig People wrote in a May 15 memo to his staff. "Take the photo in front of the weapons lock box. If you received a prisoner ... involved in an altercation with a police officer ... you are to take picture of the prisoner before leaving the police department."

The memo outlines additional policy changes involving the handling of prisoners. Deputies are required to fill out additional paperwork documenting any injuries an inmate might have suffered before being placed in the custody of jail officials.

And prisoners are required to read and sign a form that outlines their constitutional rights. That statement encourages inmates to call an attorney, Pendleton County Judge-executive Henry Bertram, police or journalists if they feel their civil rights were violated.

"I am hereby advised that Pendleton County and its officials desire for me to be treated in a humane, decent, fair and equitable manner while I may be housed at the Grant County Jail or any other detention center," the statement reads.

Concerned by allegations that two Pendleton County residents were assaulted while being housed at the jail, Pendleton Fiscal Court launched an investigation last month. Members of Fiscal Court toured the facility last week. Afterward, members pledged to make surprise inspections of the 300-bed facility, 45 miles south of Cincinnati off of Interstate 75.

On March 27 an 18-year-old Pendleton county resident filed a federal lawsuit in Covington claiming he was assaulted and sodomized by other inmates in the jail. The alleged attack took place after the 125-pound man was jailed overnight on traffic violations. A state police report found evidence that a guard said, "here is some fresh meat" before locking the man up with convicted felons. Five inmates have been indicted on assault and sodomy charges. A Grant County grant jury declined to indict any jail staff. Then, on May 15, Falmouth businessman Todd A. Cox filed a federal suit against the jail saying he was assaulted by guards. Three other Grant County prisoners also have filed federal civil suits alleging they were abused at the jail.

Cox, who operates an outdoor advertising company with billboards in about 15 counties in Northern and Eastern Kentucky, says he was handcuffed, kicked, denied medical treatment and locked in isolation to cover up the assault. He said he was beaten after he disobeyed guards' orders by placing his shoes on the cell floor instead of in a plastic bag.

Pendleton County, which does not have its own jail, has contracted with the Grant County jail to house its prisoners since 2000. But Pendleton Fiscal Court members have delayed renewing the contract because of concerns about the jail.

Bertram said if the county isn't satisfied its prisoners are being properly cared for, they might be forced to house inmates in Elizabethtown, nearly 150 miles away.

Bertram said other nearby jails, including Campbell County, have no extra beds.

Grant County Jailer Steve Kellam has referred all questions concerning abuse allegations to his attorney, Tom Nienaber of Crescent Springs. Nienaber has repeatedly denied claims of abuse, calling the jail one of the safest.


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