Franklin County Jailer Rick Rogers said Friday that he will retire Sept. 1, less than a year into his second term.
Rogers, 42, told the fiscal court that his decision was influenced by changes to the Kentucky Retirement Systems “that adversely affects my retirement” and that retiring now is in the best interest of his family.
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Rogers has been elected as jailer twice by Franklin County voters, first in 2014 and then again last year, when he defeated Democratic challenger Tracy Hopper in the primary and was unopposed in the general election. He previously served as a corrections officer before being promoted up the chain of command to chief deputy under then-Jailer Ted Hammermeister and had a stint at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office before returning to the jail.
A 1994 Franklin County High School graduate, Rogers attended Eastern Kentucky University, where he majored in criminal justice, before joining the Marine Corps Reserves as a military policeman.
On Friday, he told magistrates that he attempted to “do the right thing” throughout his time as Franklin County jailer. He said he tried to build the agency from the ground up, which was a difficult task. He thanked the court, his family, co-workers and the public for their support.
“Know that no matter what you see in the newspapers, I am doing the right thing,” Rogers said. “Absolutely doing the right thing. No jailer gets to pick the circumstances that they have to dictate.”
Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells, who will appoint a replacement for Rogers, is reviewing potential replacements and plans to make an announcement about the jailer position soon, he said. Rogers’ replacement will serve in office until Dec. 31, 2020 and candidates to follow that person can file to run in the 2020 election cycle. The winner of the election will become the Franklin County Jailer in January 2021. The person Wells appoints will serve about 15 months as jailer.
Wells wished Rogers the best in his retirement.
“Today, if you walk into the jail, it’s not the same (as it was in 2015),” Wells said. “You've been a leader in making sure that that jail is a safe place and that everything about that jail holds integrity.”
Wells added that the jail’s environment has significantly improved over time under Rogers’ leadership.
The jailer said earlier in the meeting that both morale and pay of jail employees were low when he first took office and he had to deal with an “aging, neglected building.” Rogers said his staff has continuously faced the effects of “a drug epidemic like we have never seen in this county before.” Rogers said the pay and morale of employees have increased recently, and the jail sees less staff turnover. The building is also now at a “functioning level,” he told the court.
During the fiscal court meeting, some jail employees who have served numerous years with Rogers spoke highly of him and said they will miss working with him.
Capt. Ben Gash said that Rogers brought stability and integrity to the jail and that he was on the front lines with employees, controlling situations as they arose.
“Rick, you have been through a lot in your career. You have held your head up high under extreme circumstances, pressed through many fires when the majority would have put their head down and hid in the shadows,” Gash said. “You’ve accomplished more in your term than anyone could have imagined, and you haven’t received the credit you’ve deserved.”
The room full of county employees and leaders gave Rogers a round of applause, and magistrates thanked Rogers for his hard work. First District Magistrate Sherry Sebastian said she requested a tour of the jail when she was running for her office and that Rogers obliged.
“The jailer walked me through the jail and was absolutely sincere about every comment that he had made in regard to advancing things in the jail, talking about the inmates and especially in supporting his staff, who I met that day and were very focused on their tasks. I was really, really pleased,” Sebastian said.
In his time as jailer, Roger has negotiated contracts to improve conditions at the jail. Last month, the fiscal court approved a contract with Southern Health Partners to bring 24-hour medical services to the jail, which has already seen an improvement in the health of inmates in a short time, Rogers said Friday.
The jail launched a program in May that gave inmates access to GTL Inspire computer tablets as a way, proponents said, to connect inmates and their loved ones on the outside while improving conditions for all inside FCRJ. Inmates are charged for tablet use, bringing revenue for the jail.
FCRJ became one of Kentucky’s jails with the highest number of inmates who earned their General Educational Development diplomas, or GEDs. This year, 25 inmates obtained a GED through the Thorn Hill Education Center, surpassing larger counties like Jefferson and Fayette. In January, Rogers called that fact one of his most satisfying accomplishments since taking office.
“It gives people an opportunity,” he told The State Journal at the time. “They can take a negative situation in their lives and turn it into something beneficial.”
The jail has also been at the center of some controversies during Rogers’ tenure.
The estate of Dylan Harrison Stratton filed a lawsuit last month alleging that negligence led to the inmate’s death earlier this year from drug withdrawal. In March, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a lawsuit brought by an Indiana woman, Kelsey Love, who gave birth alone inside an FCRJ cell and claims “deliberate indifference,” should continue after the jail attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed.
Former FCRJ Chief Deputy Kelly Rouse retired last year following his suspension with pay after a formal allegation of sexual harassment was made against him. The investigation into Rouse cost the county more than $14,000, but the findings of the report were heavily redacted by the County Attorney’s Office in a copy given last year to The State Journal. In the report, jail employees described Rouse as “intimidating” and said that he participated in misconduct. Private investigators found evidence that Rouse “engaged in comments and/or behavior of either a direct or implied nature which has tended to create a hostile environment for female officers at the FCRJ.”
In July, a former inmate filed a federal lawsuit against the county and several jail employees, alleging that FCRJ guard Brandon Scott Price, 26, sexually assaulted her while she was incarcerated. Price faces a charge of third-degree sodomy, a Class D felony, in connection with the incident.
Last month, inmate Deavine Jamal Lewis was indicted on charges of smuggling deadly narcotics into the jail, which allegedly led to the overdose of another inmate, David D. Drury.