Warren jail looks to allow inmates to attend church

The Warren County Jail will be exploring a policy to permit work-release eligible inmates to attend church on Sundays.

The Prison Board discussed the concept during Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin, who pitched the idea, said that the change is “something that several of the inmates have expressed to me.”

The idea would be for an approved, trained volunteer to be able to pick up as many as three inmates to take to church. Inmates once were able to go to church but the board identified a lack of supervision as the case of increased contraband issues that resulted in the discontinuation of the initiative.

“I think it’s a great program. I think it’s a great idea,” District Attorney Rob Greene said. “For the inmates that want to go… for the right reasons, it’s fantastic.”

He acknowledged the prior challenges. “They’re gonna transfer drugs,” he said. “We did have an issue with that. I believe if they’re supervised, I think it’s a great idea.”

Kafferlin said he “totally” understands the concern, but noted that an existing volunteer mechanism would be incorporated.

Commissioner Cindy Morrison asked about liability concerns and Collins said the county would be covered under an insurance policy for the work release program.

Kafferlin said this would only apply to work-release eligible inmates.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Warden Jon Collins said. “(It) has potential to be a great idea if there are sincere inmates that are really looking to get something out of church and I think there are.”

Marcus Briggs, the jail’s chaplain, said he thinks “it’s a great program. This sounds good to get them connected with church… to a different group of people… in a new environment. We’re all working for that.”

Collins raised concern about inmates using it as additional opportunities to visit family.

Greene expressed that it’s a detriment that “we have to say that a family member can’t be there especially when going to church… I don’t know what the right answer is. You want to incorporate families in this. When they get out, they’re going to their family.”

“We would really have to emphasize on the supervision,” Collins said while Greene noted that body scan technology discussed earlier in the meeting would assist.

Contraband will continue to be a concern.

Morrison suggested that they may need to hold off until the body scan equipment – if purchased – is implemented.

“(We) have to go in eyes wide open knowing that kind of behavior will happen,” Greene said.

Collins said a urine screen could be implemented as part of the process.

“We’ve gotta really look at the policy,” Collins said, and “what stipulations (we are) going to take on it.”

He said he’d draft a policy this week.