LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Grace Smith and Carl Reesor helped run the Bullitt County Detention Center in 2019, but they quit their jobs last fall.
They said they couldn’t take care of the man in charge, jailer Paul Watkins.
“He’s extremely racist,” Smith said. “He tried to hide it, but when you’ve been a racist for a long time, you don’t hide it very well … The jailer was a force to be reckoned with. He didn’t believe in playing by the rules.”
“He explained that he hated the Chinese,” added Reesor. “It was to the point that we thought he was joking, and we all kind of look at each other. Then we find out he’s serious.”
“I was there when he made comments about the Chinese, and he had issues with everyone,” Smith added. “If you weren’t an older white man like him, he had a problem with that. He was very sexist towards women.”
The two former employees of the command staff have just filed a complaint against Bullitt Fiscal Court and Watkins.
“I don’t think anyone would be surprised with what is happening in Bullitt County because Bullitt County has a bad reputation when it comes to inmate abuse,” Smith said.
These are just the latest charges against Watkins and the Tax Court. Surveillance video from inside the prison in April 2019 is part of another trial. In it, Watkins says this about a nurse, “What about that chick here? … is she okay? I came here for an exam, girl.”
Several employees contacted WDRB News in 2019 to complain about a hostile, unprofessional and sexist work environment at the prison.
This case should be tried next April. In that surveillance video, Watkins says, “” Instead of talking about it, why the hell don’t you tell them in a nice way. “But his behavior at the time is similar to what Reesor and Smith claim in their lawsuit.
Smith and Reesor allege Watkins even told them that former Deputy Chief Jailer Dave Greenwell made racist comments about them.
“He let the deputy chef call me a ‘chicken eater’ and ‘watermelon eater,'” Smith said. “And him being the jailer, he didn’t do anything about it. He told us that was how I knew it, and he didn’t think it was a big thing or anything. “
Greenwell was fired in January 2020 and said he couldn’t remember saying anything racist to anyone and Watkins “lying about everything”. Greenwell, the former Bullitt County Sheriff who was acquitted under a federal drug trafficking program, also told WDRB News about a hostile work environment in the jail. The lawsuit claims that Greenwell also called Reesor an “N-lover”.
“With 40 years of law enforcement experience, I’ve tried to bring this to the establishment and make it more professional as an agency,” Reesor said. “It met with resistance throughout the process.”
Watkins fired Reesor and Smith, telling WDRB News they had quit work.
In this whistleblower trial, Reesor and Smith outline a number of prison allegations.
“There were 22 doors in the facility that either had no locks or had issues,” Reesor said. “The inmates traveled wherever they wanted. We stopped it all and fixed it.”
“Mental health is one of the things we worked on every day we were there,” Smith added. “Because their idea of sanity was to put somebody in the cell with no bunk or whatever and lay on the floor and call them and watch them. We told them it wasn’t. was not unacceptable, and he fought us over it. “
The lawsuit says there were several violations of law, policies and procedures at the prison.
“They hired people from the streets and didn’t check their backgrounds,” Reesor said.
They say the detainees were not provided with underwear and appropriate food to eat.
“Finding worms in the food – I brought this to the attention of the prison inspector, as they were buying food in Mexico and serving inmates,” Reesor said. “It was a problem to provide them with underwear. They were in a facility without underwear, and that’s a KY DOC standard.”
Lawsuit alleges command staff warned Watkins that his behavior could amount to sexual harassment, claiming Watkins would go to the inmate area with e-cigarettes in her pocket and an inmate would put her hands in her pocket to retrieve them .
Watkins initially agreed to speak to WDRB News for a taped interview, but later canceled after speaking with his attorney. But he discussed the allegations over the phone.
“This is the biggest thing I have ever heard of in my life,” he said, adding that he was not racist and believed those who pursued him were only looking for money. .
He said the allegations were “completely false” and that he had “two biracial grandchildren”. Watkins said he hired more minorities at the prison than ever before.
Bullitt County Executive Judge Jerry Summers said he was disappointed with the allegations against Watkins.
“He would start every conversation with him having biracial grandchildren,” Smith said. “He’s not racist because he has biracial grandchildren, and that would get old after a while. For me, he was looking for validation.”
The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and damages.
“I believe that a person who is going to be a jailer has to be trained to be a jailer,” Reesor said. “You can’t go from roofer to jailer in the state and know what your job is.”
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