Carping inmates, of course, come with the territory. But those complaints, including Paycheck's, have increased recently as the jail's population has swelled to as high as 283 inmates in recent weeks. Those numbers have dropped steadily since and 227 inmates were reported at the jail Tuesday.
Jailer Barry Harmon doesn't take the complaints lightly, but they are such a constant in his job that he doesn't take them personally. Harmon admits the jail, capacity 300, is usually crowded, but says it doesn't get overcrowded to the boiling point.
"They've been putting people on the floor since the day we moved in," said Harmon, who was first elected in 2002. "Being crowded does concern us and it does bother me, but it hasn't got to the point it isn't safe and sanitary."
Steady complaints about the jail from inmates or their girlfriends began after the March 24-25 weekend. That's when a busy weekend by police pushed the jail's population up to 283. Complaints to The Advocate-Messenger were all regarding Cell 221, a smoking cell on the secure side of the jail where local inmates are housed.
Cell 221 has 22 bunks, but the number of inmates reached 48 last month. Harmon invited a reporter to visit. "I've got nothing to hide," he said.
That visit last week revealed about 35 inmates in the cell, with several double-mat sleeping accommodations on the floor.
Through the glass it appeared to be calm, with inmates watching television, playing cards, talking or reading. Many inmates choose the floor over a top bunk, Harmon said.
Inmates also have access to a workout room, chapel and library, and can have visitors except on Sundays and Mondays, Harmon said.
Paycheck said Cell 221 was limited to a ration of three rolls of toilet paper a day.
Harmon said it's because prisoners in Cell 221 regularly use toilet paper to start fires. Inmates have to share soap, which isn't very sanitary, Paycheck said. Harmon responded that bars of soap melded together can make a dangerous weapon in the bottom of a sock.
While crowded cells can raise inmates' ire, they also can cost the jail money.
Harmon told the Joint Jail Committee last week that the state "yanked" 16 of its prisoners after the inmate population rose to 283.
Those state inmates were waiting on the secure side of the jail before being sent to prison to complete their sentences, Harmon said.
The jail gets about $30 per day for each state inmate it houses. Inmates from Boyle and Mercer counties, however, do not generate any revenue. The recent loss of state inmates has caused concerns as the counties plan their budgets for next year.
Having perpetually crowded jails also raises moral concerns, said Susanne McCollough, supervisor of the public defenders' office in Danville, which provides attorneys for people who can't afford to hire their own.
"You don't have all your rights when you go to jail, but you have basic rights," McCollough said, adding that many inmates being held at the jail have only been charged with crimes but not yet convicted.
"Most people assume that everyone at the jail is already guilty, so why should they care if they are sleeping on the floor."
Usually, there are more inmates at the Boyle jail who are waiting for their cases to be decided than those who have been convicted and are serving their sentences, said Deputy Jailer Phil Yates.
McCollough said most local jailers do the best they can with the limited space they have to work with and have no control over how many inmates are assigned to jail.
Harmon said police officers and judges have some discretion over who gets put in jail and for how long.
Depending on the charge, police officers decide whether a person they have arrested should be jailed, Harmon said, and judges can use alternatives like home incarceration and pre-trial release to help control the jail population.
Harmon said at the Joint Jail Committee meeting last week that he would develop a system to let judges and police know when the jail population is swelling so they can react accordingly and consider options other than locking someone up.