41 Kentucky County Jailers Draw Salaries even though their Counties don’t have Jails

Sunday, January 11, 2015
Jeanette Hughes (photo: Kentucky Jailers Association)

Being a prison guard can be tough, dangerous work. But being a jailer in Kentucky can mean nothing more taxing than making sure your grandchild doesn’t spill his cereal on the floor while watching TV.


Jailer is an elected office in Kentucky, the only state where that’s the case. The jailer is responsible for maintaining the county jail, transporting prisoners to court and other related duties. But in 41 of Kentucky’s counties, there is no jail. Those counties with small populations use regional jails to house prisoners. So what do those jailers do with their time?


In the case of Jeanette Miller Hughes, who received $69,000 a year as Perry County’s jailer, it’s babysitting her grandchild. Since her county has no jail, or even an office for her, this is easily accomplished in her living room. Hughes was the highest paid of the state’s no-jail jailers.


The others in her situation are paid less, but make up for it by holding a full-time job, sometimes for another government agency. Others put their relatives on the county payroll as deputies. Some actually do work for their pay, transporting prisoners to the regional jails or acting as bailiffs in the county’s courthouse, unlike Hughes. “I’m pretty much here eight hours a day. And I’d work 24 hours a day for her salary,” Owsley County Jailer Robert  Cope told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Cope makes $23,000 a year.


Salaries are set at a range between $20,000 and $70,398, determined by the county’s fiscal court. The judge-administrator who set Hughes’ salary, Denny Ray Noble, said he’d given Hughes a raise based on what she told him that she had done. “She’s a Christian lady and I think she’d tell you the truth,” Noble said. “If she tells you she’ll do somethin’, she’ll do it.”


Hughes—and Noble—will soon have to find something else to do. They each lost their re-election bids last year and left office after the New Year.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Only in Kentucky: Jailers Without Jails (by R.G. Dunlop and Jacob Ryan, Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting)

Kentucky Jailers Association Supports Reforms to Elected Jailer System (by Mike Simpson, River City News)

Possible Fix for Kentucky’s No-Jail Jailers: Cutting Their Pay (WKMS)


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