Before 2002, the Knox County Jail sat in the public square, an old two-story building with metal bars and out-of-date surveillance technology. Now at 11540 Upper Gilchrist Road there is a new jail, complete with improved dormitories and an impressive central control system. With the modern technology in place, processes like arraignments can take place over video conference, providing a safer and more efficient system for both the prisoners and court members.
The movement of the jail has also allowed for other improvements. For instance, there is now mental health counseling and assessment through the work of Behavioral Health Partners and the Alcohol and Drug Freedom Center of Mount Vernon. Even though the new jail is out of sight from the public eye, there has been a change in perception regarding what needs to be done to reduce the chance of criminal re-offense in the area.
Lieutenant Penny Lamp explained how the Knox County legal system helps prisoners “get on track” by providing them with ways to deal with building a new life outside of the jail. This includes an on-site GED program and Bible study group, as well as halfway houses in the area to help former prisoners without familial support cope with the change.
The way in which the jail functions can be connected back to a deep care that residents have for this place and the people within it. An increasing focus on mental health and drug abuse counseling exemplifies the benevolent character of the Knox County community as a whole.
[Recent drug epidemics have] pushed for us to consider what we’re doing while people are in jail so that we don’t see them again.
– Rob Broeren, City of Mount Vernon Law Director, Kenyon Alumnus.
Photo: A framed photograph of Clyde E. Biggs, Knox County Sheriff from 1937 to 1941, commemorated in the lobby of the current Knox County Jail. Courtesy of Audrey Neubauer
Written by Audrey Neubauer (’19) and Suzy Goldberg (’19)