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Judge-Exectutive acknowledges detention center closure

Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock wants the community to know that the situation at the Bell County Detention Center is being addressed and it will be corrected.

Bell County Detention Center officials were notified Friday by the Kentucky Department of Corrections that the facility must be completely evacuated by 5 p.m. on Feb. 5.

“I am going to say that I want to assure everybody that the situation at the jail is being addressed and it will be corrected,” Brock explained. “We have been in the process of correcting it, but it appears that the new administration and department of corrections, that it has not been communicated to them. We will be doing that forthcoming, and we feel very optimistic and we will have no inmates moved or the jail closed on (Feb. 5).”

The closure stems from the continued failure of the jail to remedy its inoperable smoke evacuation system, a critical life safety component of detention facilities. Without a properly functioning smoke evacuation system, inmate living areas are unprotected in the event of a fire.

The Department of Corrections issued an order of closure on Oct. 2 directing the jail to be closed by Dec. 1.

When jail officials made minimal progress correcting the violations, an extension was given to Jan. 30. However, the smoke evacuation system is still inoperable which prompted today’s action.

“The Department of Corrections gave Bell County officials ample opportunity to correct this situation and repair or replace the smoke evacuation system,” said Corrections Commissioner Kathleen Kenney. “Our safety concerns were not addressed, which led us to close the jail.”

The Department of Corrections has the authority to close a jail under KRS 441.045 if there is a violation of health and life safety regulations that involve the protection of persons or property.