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Inmates working to reduce sentences

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Cynthiana benefits from skilled prisoners’ work detail

Becky Barnes,
Editor
bbarnes@cynthianademocrat.com

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For Timothy Henry, who was serving out a 15-year sentence for second-degree arson, having the opportunity for work release in Cynthiana may just be the break he has needed.
Henry, 35, is from Estill County where he said trouble breeds trouble.
He admitted that if he was released with nothing better to do than go back to Estill County, he would likely end up back in jail.
“I’m trying to start over,” Henry said just days before his release from the Bourbon County Detention Center.
He said he cannot go back to his family, because they are part of the problem.
He said he had just started using drugs when he went out with his cousin. That one night has cost him almost half of his lifetime in jail.
Henry was to be released shortly after being interviewed for this story.
At his release, Henry will have a job and a home to begin his new life. He credits Det/Sgt Alan Judy of the Cynthiana Police Department with helping him start over.
He will work a regular job during the days and at night, he will be helping to restore another downtown building in exchange for an apartment.
Henry was selected to be part of the Cynthiana Police Department’s work-release program where inmates can work off some of their jail time through community service. Henry has been helping with the renovations to the old Field and Main Bank building, which will soon be the new City Hall.
According to Judy, the City Hall project began with eight inmates who have done everything from demolition to drywall.
Henry, who considers himself a carpenter, said he jumped at the opportunity to be outside of the BCDC.
He said that in many jails there is an exercise yard where inmates can get outside. However, BCDC does not have a yard.
Henry considers the work he is doing in Cynthiana part of his duty.
“I’d like to see this get done,” Henry said of the old three-story bank building. “I’ll come in here to pay my taxes one day.”
Henry was released last Friday and has since volunteered to see the project completed.
He said he has been fortunate to meet Judy, Chief Ray Johnson and Mayor James Smith.
“They’re good people,” Henry said. “I didn’t want to have to go back home. That scared me really.”
To Henry, home is not the white picket fence kind of place. It’s where his problems rest. His fear is that to return to that situation, is a sure-fire ticket back to jail.
Jason Cordle of Covington, who is serving out six years at BCDC for a firearm possession as a convicted felon. With his work-release agreement, his sentence is reduced to three years and five months.
Cordle, 38, is one of the two inmates remaining at the City Hall project. The others have either been released or are working in other areas for the city.
Before his incarceration, Cordle worked as a commercial painter in Covington. He said he painted gas stations.
He has also been involved in the work-release or trustee program for state inmates in Bourbon County. He said he picked up trash with the road crew.
“With this, I can work steady then relax for a minute,” Cordle said.
Judy explained that the program is designed to put inmates in areas where they have some experience.
“The inmates can still refuse,” Judy said, adding that has not been the case for this City Hall project.
Judy commended the men who are working on the project.
The building was built sometime in the early 1900s. Where some of the old plaster was removed, there was stenciling on the wall.
The men replaced 12-inch ceiling tiles with drywall; they’ve pulled up old carpet, leveled floors, and added a restroom on the second floor.
Cynthiana’s Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Program will be located on the second floor along with other city offices.
The first floor will also be used for city offices.
Judy said the third floor, which has no heat or air conditioning will be a project for another time.
The city has saved thousands of dollars by using the inmates.
Mayor Smith describes the savings as being in “the tens of thousands.”
Smith said that the young men who have been working on the project are skilled laborers and had they been on a paying job site, their hours could have accounted for about $15,000 or more.
Smith said that had the inmate work program not been available the city would have likely moved ahead with the project to renovate the old bank building, which was donated to the city by Field and Main Bank. However, things would have moved at a much slower pace.
The city would have had to bid the project, which would have taken time, and the costs would have driven back the amount of work that could be done.
Chief Johnson said he has been pleased with the way the work detail program has benefited the city as well as the inmates.
“It’s a win-win for all of us,” Johnson said. “We get the savings and the inmates get out for awhile.”
“The costs savings for us is the win and for the inmate it’s getting out of jail and being able to be productive,” Smith said.
This is the first time Cynthiana has used state inmates for work details.
“They’re respectful and they’re trustworthy,” Johnson said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be let out.”
Johnson said the program also allows law enforcement to get to know the inmates and what got them to jail in the first place and for the inmates to get to know law enforcement in a setting other than getting arrested.
Smith said he would eventually like to see other city offices located in the building, such as code enforcement, Gary Royalty, EDA, and others.
With the city offices moving, possibly in September or October, Smith said, the current offices will be absorbed by the Cynthiana Fire Department.
How that will affect the newly purchased property on U.S. 27 North is still up in the air, Smith said. The City Hall fire location could be turned into the main station with a smaller station at the new property along with other emergency services.
That decision will come later,  Smith said.