Oldham County Jail Fundraiser Sparks Criticism, Outrage From Advocates

Jan 8, 2018

Credit Thinkstock

An upcoming fundraiser for the new Oldham County jail is drawing criticism from advocacy groups.

The event, “This Joint is Jumpin,’” invites the public to to spend a night in the new facility. For a contribution of at least $100 to participating nonprofits, donors will be given a tour of the facility, breakfast and dinner, snacks, a commemorative T-shirt, a souvenir mug shot, and “one fun-night in jail.”

Proceeds from Friday’s event will be split among participating organizations, including the American Red Cross, the Humane Society of Oldham County, the Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Foundation and the South Oldham Little League.

One group voicing opposition to the event is Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice. Member Anice Chenault said participating nonprofits could be alienating the people they serve, and said the groups should rescind support of the event.

“Making fun of being in a jail is not really an acceptable thing to do in our community,” Chenault said. “Many of the organizations that are participating have missions to serve low-income folks. And a whole lot of those folks that they’re serving, that their mission is to serve, are going to have family members, or perhaps have themselves may be involved with the prison system. We would like them to consider the impact on the people that they’re serving.”

Chanelle Helm, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Louisville, agrees that organizations participating in the fundraiser could be disconnected from the people they serve. Helm said the event is disheartening in light of overcrowded jails, incarceration rates and the approaching two-year anniversary of the death of Gynnya McMillen inside a Kentucky juvenile detention center.

“They have the staff to be able to raise the funds — instead of this way,” Helm said. “[Jail is] an everyday situation for some folks who are trying to get by; people who are poor, people who are immigrants and people who are black.”

Bob Widman, chairman of the Ohio Valley Railroad Historical Foundation, said the event is a great idea. Widman said he hopes teens will attend and learn lessons about staying away from crime.

‘It’s just a way of promoting funding for the different nonprofit organizations and also show the individuals … what it’s going to be like if they’re incarcerated overnight,” Widman said. “I don’t see anything wrong with it but like I said, I will not say anything against anybody that does not go along with it. That’s their opinion.”

A screenshot of the Humane Society of Oldham County’s Facebook page.
Credit Screenshot/Facebook

Jail officials did not return repeated calls for comment.

The Humane Society of Oldham County declined to comment on their involvement in the event, but the group addressed “negative comments” it received on its Facebook page:

“There is a small but vocal minority opposed to the detention center and using our Facebook page to try to make this event seem like it is something it is not,” the statement read. “Please do not let this small, politically-motivated group dissuade you from supporting us in our mission of spay and neutering and finding good homes for the Oldham County homeless pet population.”

The new Oldham County Detention Center was announced last year. WDRB reported the facility would hold more than 300 inmates and could expand to hold 500 beds.

“This Joint is Jumpin'” takes place Friday, January 12.

This story has been updated.