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Judge sens HIP back to Detention Center

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - The operation of the Home Incarceration Program will be returned to the management of the Bullitt County jailer.

At least until the merits of the case can be heard.

Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress has ruled that the temporary injunction sought by jailer Martha Knox was justified and that the operation of the incarceration program would be shifted from the sheriff's office to the detention center.

The most pressing question is how long it will take to make a smooth transition.

Knox filed a lawsuit against Bullitt Fiscal Court, the sheriff's office and the county attorney's office after resolutions were passed to remove the HIP from the jail's control and gave it to sheriff's office to operate.

Attorney Eric Farris, who represented Knox in the legal action, said that he was working with Carol Petitt, who represented the defendants, to make sure there is a smooth transition.

He didn't think there needed to be a rush to the changeover.

In his ruling, Burress wrote that the resolutions approved by fiscal court did not meet the KRS requirements.

Both parties agreed during a recent hearing that ordinances had not been approved. 

The judge did agree that line items had been added to the county budget for a supervisory position for HIP but there was no revenue or expenses listed. In fact, the revenue generated was placed in the jail's fund.

A key part of the request for a temporary injunction was the need to show irreparable harm.

In looking at the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled that any violation of the Constitution, even for minimal periods of time, "unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury."

Burress added that the jailer has the duty to accept individuals on home incarceration and, with that power taken away, she would suffer immediate and irreparable injury.

Under KRS 532.210(5), the supervision of HIP falls to the jailer.

Another portion of the decision centered around the probability of whether the jailer would ultimately prevail.

"Without reaching a final decision on the merits, this court is called upon to determine the likelihood of success," wrote Burress. "This court finds the plaintiff has demonstrated a substantial probability of success on the merits."

Having no ordinance in place is a problem, according to the judge's decision.

"The jailer is inherently responsible for daily supervision of prisoners of the court," wrote Burress. "The sheriff and county attorney are not."

Burress ordered that the operation of HIP be returned to the jailer's control. Each of the parties are to work together to make a smooth transfer.

Within 48 hours of his ruling, Knox was to have Burress a copy of all the rules, regulations, agreements and conditions that would be placed upon those assigned to HIP.

County attorney Monica Robinson said that fiscal court assigned the program to the sheriff's office after concerns were raised about the public safety.

She said there were concerns that some participants of the program were not being monitored and some had not even signed up at all through the detention center.

In terms of Burress' order, Robinson said the sheriff's office and her office will make sure it is followed.

Both Robinson and Greenwell said that there would have to be some clarification on some of the directions from the court.

Some of that transition must involve the vendor, Coresoft. Robinson said the contract with Coresoft is with fiscal court and not the jailer.

Greenwell said nothing would be altered until all the parties agree that all the provisions are in place to ensure public safety.

From the beginning, Greenwell said it is not a task he asked to undertake. He knows it is a headache.

At the same time, he also knew that people who could be a risk to the community were not being properly monitored.

Robinson and Greenwell both mentioned those assigned to the program who were not monitored and some were even assigned from other counties.

The county attorney said the detention center has the opportunity to have a program through the state.

For the past week, Robinson said her prosecutors have stopped recommending HIP until the matters are resolved.

Chief deputy John Cottrell said that through the Coresoft program, there are e-mail reminders when a problem in the GPS monitoring system occurs.

Robinson said there are ways in which fiscal court could ask for reconsideration of the judge's order. However, that would be a decision of the court members.

Farris said the judge's ruling only dealt with the temporary injunction and the lawsuit has yet to be decided.

Knox is currently in contact with Coresoft to make for a smooth transition.

Farris did not dispute the fact that HIP is a lot of work but he said the allegations that there were "safety issues" is bogus.

"Everyone was monitored," said Farris.

The bottom line, according to Farris, is there is an effort to resolve the matter without any further litigation. He said his client wanted everyone to sit down and work out the issues initially but that did not happen.

Part of the reason for the discussions with opposing counsel is so the transition is not rushed, according to Farris.