A Big Sandy Regional Detention Center employee dismissed from his position with the jail has been reinstated by the board.
Documents obtained by The Paintsville Herald show that William Matthew Hensley, who told the board he started work in May, was terminated by BSRDC Administrator F. D. Pete Fitzpatrick for allegedly leaving his post guarding an inmate who was staying at Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center. Kentucky Revised Statute 441.045 dictates that if an inmate requires a hospital stay, a correctional officer or peace officer must remain with the inmate at all times, unless the facility consents to the absence of an officer.
According to his warning record, Hensley was sent to the hospital September 9 to relieve another jail employee, and was left on duty for an extended period of time. After not eating for 20 hours, Hensley allegedly restrained the inmate to the bed and left to get a sandwich and coffee at the hospital cafeteria.
Fitzpatrick explained in Hensley’s disciplinary hearing the officer who was supposed to relieve Hensley failed to work that day, leaving Hensley on duty for longer than anticipated. Fitzpatrick said that because the officer on duty cannot leave the inmate alone, the policy in place is that the hospital is supposed to provide food — and if, for some reason, they cannot, Hensley is to order food elsewhere and seek reimbursement for his costs.
Hensley told Fitzpatrick at his disciplinary hearing, and the jail board at his appeal, that he felt he was inadequately trained for such a hospital detail. He told the jail board he was unaware of these policies. A report from his training officer explained that he had been given between two and three hours of training, specifically including that he cannot leave the inmate alone and that the hospital is supposed to bring food; according to Hensley, the training was only around one hour and much less informative.
However, when Fitzpatrick spoke with hospital staff, they contradicted some elements of Hensley’s account. One hospital employee told Fitzpatrick that Hensley actually left the building to go smoke, and staff also said Hensley was belligerent in responding to questions about his disappearance. When he was asked who was with the inmate, he allegedly told hospital staff “four point restraints are with him,” and when asked for the jail’s phone number, he allegedly told hospital staff to “look it up.”
In his own report of the incident, Hensley wrote that he feels this disparity may have something to do with a prior, unrelated conflict between a particular nurse at the hospital and Hensley’s family. Hensley reiterated to the jail board that the account of him leaving to smoke was not true.
Following an executive session in September’s board meeting, the board voted to reinstate Hensley following a two week suspension, on a 5-3 vote.