Harmon finds $100,000 in jail's canteen account

August 14, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

Inmates at the Boyle County Detention Center have started to brush up on their Rook and checkers. They eat pizza once a month, work out on commercial-grade machines and have a stocked-up library.

These amenities aren't bankrolled by Boyle and Mercer county taxpayers, but by the inmates themselves.

Money from the sale of things like deodorant, snacks and cigarettes at the jail canteen can only be used on inmate education and entertainment. When Jailer Barry Harmon took office, he found $100,000 in the canteen account.

The games, exercise and pizza are used as rewards for following the rules. And it appears to work. In June 2002, there were 77 inmate incidents, such as fights and unkempt cells. This June there were 18 incidents.

"The atmosphere in the cells is just so much better," Harmon said.

When family members send money orders to the prisoner's account, half the money is put in the inmate canteen account and the other half goes toward covering the cost of incarceration. Inmates pay a maximum of $20 a day to stay in the jail. Income and family conditions can lower the cost.


The canteen account can be used to buy things like birthday cards, chips, cigarettes and shampoo. Deputy Jailer Jackie Young runs the canteen, and profits from the sales are used to pay most of her salary. She sends out order forms and then fills the orders. "It's not much but it makes them happy," she said.

When Harmon found the account, he began to look for ways to spend it.

The facility's exercise equipment was in disrepair and there were no basketball goals. He bought weight machines, a treadmill, a rowing machine, a stair-step machine, a punching bag and two basketball goals. Inmates put up the goals and striped the courts themselves. Inmates are allowed to work out three times a week.

When volunteer librarians started to pass books out to inmates and needed more, Harmon bought 600 library books to fill out the library. Some inmates read as many as three books a week, Harmon said, and he expects them to read more as they get back into the habit of reading.

On Sunday evenings once a month, he began to feed the inmates pizza. Only those who follow the rules are allowed to eat, the rest get the regular jail meals. Because the meal is paid for by inmates, it saves the counties from buying one meal. It has been such a cost saver that Harmon has considered extending it to once a week.

Harmon bought 20 each of the games of Rook, Uno, checkers, chess, Monopoly and Scrabble. Every dormitory has a set. Chess hasn't been a big hit, but Harmon said Monopoly and Uno are popular.

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