More than 200 Louisville Metro Corrections staffers, about 97% of those who participated in a Tuesday vote, indicated they have no confidence in the jail’s director, Dwayne Clark, and his administration. The action followed employee outcry over issues such as abysmal work conditions.
Union president Daniel Johnson said the jail’s severe staffing shortages make it an unsafe environment to work and live — and 99% of those who voted agreed.
“The conditions have gotten far worse than what we’ve ever seen. I’ve been there for 17 years,” Johnson said. “And we are running as few as one to two officers in areas where there’s over 400 inmates.”
Last week, five women incarcerated at the facility were hospitalized for drug overdoses.
Johnson said inadequate staffing has also resulted in detainees losing access to physical activities, because there aren’t enough officers to oversee recreational areas.
“Just on one floor alone [Tuesday], we had nine fights,” Johnson said. “The day before that we had seven, because they’re overcrowded, they can’t get to gym, they have no way of releasing any of their energy.”
Despite more than two decades of a corrections officer shortage, Johnson said Clark and his administration aren’t doing anything to attract and retain employees.
“There’s been no social media posts, and they’re not on indeed, they’re not on Monster.com — we don’t even have a sign in our lobby that says we’re hiring. There’s no billboards, there’s no TV commercials. Where’s the urgency?” Johnson said.
City officials have responded by authorizing double-pay for overtime. But Johnson said that’s not a sustainable solution — both financially and in terms of employee morale and burnout. He added Metro Corrections is on track to spend $10 million in supplemental pay this year.
“People are tired, they want the vacancies filled. They don’t want more overtime,“ Johnson said.
Union members delivered a list of demands to city officials Tuesday, including wage increases, Clark’s immediate termination and to be included in the search for a new director.
In an emailed statement, Jean Porter, director of communications for Mayor Greg Fischer, called the vote “disappointing, short-sighted and insulting” to Clark.
“Director Clark and his team — in partnership with the very union that is criticizing him today — have come up with innovative solutions to address the challenges, including paying double time for those having to work overtime,” Porter’s statement read.
Porter said Fischer is confident in the jail director’s ability to lead Metro Corrections, despite the vote. She added the mayor urges union members to set aside differences and work alongside him to meet their needs.