Jailer talks about financial, human costs of addiction

Ralph B. Davis rdavis@civitasmedia.com

November 19, 2013

PRESTONSBURG — At the monthly meeting Tuesday of Communities Against Drug Addiction, Jailer Cheyenne McKinney told those gathered that jail is not the answer to the county’s drug problems.

“Jail is not the answer,” McKinney said. “Jail is just the holding place.”

McKinney spoke about some of the financial costs of addiction. He noted that the Floyd County Detention Center has 112 beds, but at any given time has about 150 prisoners, with some, but not all, of the overage housed in other counties. And of those 150 prisoners, he said about 95 percent of them are behind bars either on a drug charge or for another crime they committed because of addiction.

But McKinney also spoke of the human cost of addiction, taking note of prisoners who have missed out on watching their children grow up or their parents’ funerals, simply because they were in jail.

“Jail is just a waste of time …” McKinney said. “That is what addiction does to you. It steals time.”

McKinney said he has taken a number of steps he hopes will help curb addiction, including the implementation of weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings for inmates.

He has also invited churches to hold worship services in the jail, which he said he believes is one key to cutting down on drug abuse. He said he believes the Bible is the best resource for fighting addiction.

“There’s still temptations, but God will give us strength to overcome those temptations,” McKinney said.

But McKinney said no matter what programs the jail implements or what others do, the key to solving the drug crisis lies in the addict’s heart.

“We’re doing what we can do, but we also need an effort from the person,” McKinney said. “They need to be committed.”

During its monthly meetings, CADA welcomes guest speakers who can talk about some aspect about the causes and consequences of addiction. Noting that McKinney is currently facing several candidates in next year’s election, the group said it would welcome any other jailer candidates who want to address the meeting.

The group also spoke about possibly putting together a forum for candidates in law enforcement and legal offices.

CADA meets at noon on the third Tuesday of each month, at First Presbyterian Church, in Prestonsburg.