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Louisville mayor orders independent review of troubled corrections department

Exterior of Louisville Metro Corrections.
Roberto Roldan

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is ordering an independent review of the Metro Department of Corrections. This follows six in-custody deaths since November.

The city has also hired two high-ranking public services officials as Assistant Chiefs, saying in a press release the goal is for them to improve the department’s performance.

One of the two, Amy Hess, was previously Louisville Metro’s public safety chief. She’ll focus on issues like overpopulation, recruiting jail staff and conducting training on new policies. The other, Ron Heady, is a former Louisville Metro Police Department officer who will oversee accountability and disciplinary actions.

“Jails across the nation face difficult obstacles, including staffing shortages and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fischer said in a statement. “Adding these two seasoned public servants back to our team will provide further support and knowledge base to our corrections team.”

Louisville Metro has also hired Gary Raney, an independent expert in corrections deaths, to investigate recent deaths ruled suicides at the jail.

“While suicides in jails are sadly common, every death is a tragedy,” Fischer said. “I look forward to the independent review and recommendations of Sheriff Raney on this critical issue.”

Raney will also look into the corrections department’s policies, procedures and practices.

Officials say three of the recent in-custody deaths were suicides. The latest was the death of Lesley Starnes on Feb. 6.

Louisville Metro Council could take up a vote of no confidence in jail director Dwayne Clark as soon as this week. A resolution advanced by the Public Safety Committee also calls on Fischer to fire Clark.

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