Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Some Thoughts on Elizabethtown, Kentucky and Gynnya McMillen

The recent news (or lack thereof) about the  prompts context.

Initial news reports about the death of 16-year-old Gynnya McMillen in Elizabethtown, Kentucky provided little detail, even neglecting to name the victim. A Facebook page was set up calling for an inquiry and more information. The family has spoken out on the page, criticizing both the authorities under whose watch McMillen died and the press that has provided little coverage of the story:

I'm asking that everyone repost and share my sisters story on your pages and in any groups that will help us get it out...
Posted by Justice For Gynnya McMillen on Friday, January 15, 2016
The lack of media attention means that most of the information about the case, and calls for more attention, are addressed on blogs and via individual users on social media:

A Twitter profile with a name matching Gynnya McMillen has only one tweet. It's from November 29th, 2013:

The official address for Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center is 820 New Glendale Rd, which on Google Maps is an empty field.

From the Elizabethtown page at
The Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, Lincoln County, Kentucky, like all jails is a maximum security facility. Because the inmates in this jail range from low level offenders to those being held for violent crimes like robbery, rape and murder, the security level is as high as is it is in any maximum security state prison. Some of the security features in this facility include security cameras, electronic detection and reinforced fencing topped with razor wire. Correctional officers in Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center are armed with mace and trained to use physical force to protect themselves and other inmates from violence. 
The men, women and juveniles being held in the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center are either awaiting trial or have been sentenced in the Lincoln County Court System already and been sentenced to a period of time of one year or less. When an inmate is sentenced to a year or more, they are admitted into the Kentucky Prison or Federal Prison System. Inmates in the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center are fed three meals a day totaling 2,500 calories, are allowed access to phones to contact friends and family members, are allowed at least one hour a day for exercise, have access to books, bathroom and shower facilities. The inmates are allowed mail to be delivered to them as well as newspapers and magazine from trusted outside publishers. 
But the youth detention center is not the only carceral institution in the nearby area.

Just down the road is the Hardin County Detention Center. Which has a website you can check out here.

The Hardin County Detention Center provides an odd amount of information on its website: from a complete searchable database of all their inmates by full name and incarceration date, to pages of rules about communication, and the ability to make purchases from the prison commissary.

There is even a page with a short bio of the "warden" or "jailer" as the site refers to the administrator:
Danny Allen is a lifelong resident of Hardin County.  Jailer Allen started working for the county government as a Deputy Sheriff in 1985, and 1988 as the assistant supervisor for the Hardin County Road Department.  In 2001 Jailer Allen was moved to the supervisor position for the road department of Hardin County. Danny Allen was elected and took office of Jailer January 1, 2011.  Jailer Allen has also served (6) years on the Hardin County School Board and was also Fire Chief for # 86 Volunteer Fire Department.
Amid all this information, is a page about prison visitation. At the Hardin County Detention Center, prisoners do not interact with their visitors directly. Instead:

INMATES will visit with friends and family from a video visitation terminal in their housing unit.
VISITORS will use a similar video visitation terminal in the jail’s visitation area.
So prisoners just two miles away from where a teenager died in state custody at a maximum security facility, inmates are denied the basic right of being able to sit in the physical presence of their loved ones.

These visits are limited to two twenty minute sessions per inmate, per week.

Because the video system is remotely accessible, parties can connect to prisoners over the internet. Presumably these count toward the visitor limit each prisoner has. The sessions cost $12.99 each.

Lincoln Juvenile has a much lower internet presence (although their phone number is listed at (270) 766-5280). They are or were hiring a nurse. On the page describing the job, the following is given as a typical day:

A typical day starts with receiving a briefing from the Youth Worker Supervisor concerning any youth movements in/out of the facility and any current medical needs of the youth. Counting controlled medications and passing medications. Assessing youth with medical complaints. Health and history screenings for any youths who are admitted to the facility. Obtaining physician orders required for medications or treatments for the youth. Providing updates to the Nurse Shift/Program Supervisor about youth needs or concerns.
The do have a Google website. It is minimally populated with content, but it gives the same address as the one Google shows. The site also has a list of staff and a mission statement of sorts:
The Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (KY DJJ) Program Services Division currently monitors all of Kentucky's juvenile holding facilities and secure juvenile detention facilities for compliance with state and federal mandates. KY DJJ also operates eight secure juvenile detention centers. Kentucky's juvenile detention system provides pre-trial detention of all alleged delinquent juveniles and ensures state-operated detention centers to be available for all counties.The Detention Centers provide programs with a wide range of services including: education, counseling, acute medical and mental health care, behavior management, observation and assessment, as well as continuous supervision.
According to one report about McMillen's death on said that hers is the first juvenile death in custody since 1999. The same report says an autopsy was scheduled for last Monday.

The most in-depth report on the case comes from Anna Taylor at which lists, among other details:

  • McMillen had "only been at the facility about 24 hours"
  • She was brought to Lincoln "following a Sunday morning altercation with a parent at a Shelbyville residence"
  • Kelly Cable, spokesman for the Shelbyville Police De­partment, said a domestic violence call came in at 1:46 a.m. “The child was the perpetrator in the incident and the parent did receive minor injuries,” he said. “We contacted the court-designated worker. The juvenile was transported to Lincoln Village on a charge of assault fourth-degree – domestic violence with minor injury.”
  • Gynnya was "found unresponsive at 10 a.m. in her cell and was pronounced dead at the detention center"

Despite the extra details Taylor's story, most of them come from officials at the prison and the local police. Little is know about how she was taken into custody or the name/names of the responding officers.

Gynnya McMillen.

Say her name.
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