Multiple overdoses, fights a concern for LMDC employees as accusations against leaders mount

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 7:47 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Following a week of multiple overdoses and fights between inmates, more employees at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections are talking about the conditions inside.

Monday, Major Mike Ashby, who LMDC officials intend to fire, said he wishes he would have spoken up sooner. During their departure from Ashby’s pre-termination hearing, his attorney, Thomas Clay, claimed that Ashby could be fired due to an email he sent that urged staff to keep working overtime to cover shifts.

The corrections officers fired back, saying the overtime is simply a band aid to cover for what they believe has been a lack of leadership. Clay said Ashby’s firing would be an attempt to make Ashby the “fall guy.”

Ashby said he wrote the email out of concern that the inmates and officers were not going to be safe if the number of officers was too low. Monday, he said he has those concerns every day, adding that LMDC inmates’ civil rights are being violated.

“It’s an even bigger grievance to the people incarcerated,” Ashby said. “That’s the real grievance. That’s the real fallacy here. What about these guys? What about the 16-hundred people that have zero liberties — none, zero — but the federal laws says that they have them?”

Ashby claimed that some inmates have not been able to see their families since March of 2020, despite the jail having the capability of coordinating web chats. He also added that inmates have had their recreation time taken away along with basic rights such as getting their toenails clipped.

A former LMDC corrections officer, Yvette Sheets, told WAVE 3 News she quit after a couple of weeks because she felt her morals were being compromised. Sheets says she intercepted three notes between inmates in which they talked about buying and selling drugs, including “orange pills” and “ice cream,” which both sold for $100 each.

Sheets said she reported the notes and a bag of white powder to her superiors but was allegedly told that they would not be performing a shakedown to eliminate the drugs.

LMDC Assistant Director Stephen Durham said those claims were ridiculous and untrue, adding the jail does a thorough job checking for drugs.

Sheets decided to come forward on Sept. 24 after seeing news reports that multiple people had overdosed at the jail. Several others had to be evaluated and treated.

Monday, Ashby backed Sheets claims that the administration allegedly turns a blind eye to drugs coming into the facility. He added that the administration is aware that a lot of the drugs were reaching inmates through the mail.

He said there is a simple solution that was never used.

“When you turn it into an electronic mailing system, a lot of those drugs don’t get introduced into the jail,” Ashby said. “It’s a simple switch. Turn it on.”

Louisville Corrections Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77 President Daniel Johnson said he’s afraid an inmate will die from the number of drugs inside the jail. He said things got dangerously close for four inmates that overdosed last week.

“Those people that were found unresponsive were not breathing, they didn’t have a heartbeat,” Johnson said. “They were blue in the face. We brought those people back to life.”

Ashby said the staff shortages have left officers working between 20 and 30 hours of overtime a week.

Johnson said officers are reaching their breaking point and said there are between seven and 10 fights a day.

Louisville Corrections FOP members are being urged to give a vote of no confidence to Louisville Metro Corrections Director Dwayne Clark and his administration on Sept. 28.

Durham expressed his support for Clark.

“Dwayne Clark has been a consummate Corrections professional for over 40 years,” Durham said. “He has spent the last year running our corrections facility through a global pandemic and the worst staffing shortage in recent history. He will continue to better LMDC every day and will weather this storm. "

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