Local Government Revealed: County Jailer Joani Clark

Joani Clark is a great person.  She is intelligent, hardworking, kind and considerate.  She is also the Anderson County Jailer.  She has the remarkable ability to do a great job for the people of Anderson County, and at the same time have the respect of those individuals that have run afoul of the law and meet her in her professional capacity.  Ms Clark has been the county jailer since first elected in 1998, and has easily won every election since then.  Interestingly, Kentucky is the only state that elects its jailers.

Joani is a native of Anderson County.  She began her career working in the courthouse in 1992 and first won the jailer election in 1998.  She is highly respected by her colleagues and has been on the board of directors for the Kentucky Jailers Association since 2003.  She was the first woman on the board and also the first woman elected as the Jailer of the Year in 2004.  She is married to her husband, Steve, who was a Lawrenceburg policeman and also served as a deputy sheriff here in Anderson County.

To properly understand her job, you need to understand what happens when someone is arrested.  Her department picks the individual up and transfers them to jail in Shelbyville.  Once in jail, the prisoner will have a pre-trial meeting to determine if they can be freed on their own recognizance or if bail will be required. If the prisoner is to be released, she handles the paperwork and communicates with Shelbyville to make sure the release is properly handled. If bail is required, Ms Clark gets the paperwork and any restrictions the judge may impose and gets it to the court clerk.

If the prisoner is released, she will schedule their first court appearance, usually in about two weeks.  If a prisoner remains in jail, their first court appearance or arraignment is via video from the jail in Shelbyville.  Ms Clark arranges these, usually on Monday and Thursday at 8:30am.  All subsequent court appearances are in person.  Tuesday is for the felony arrests and Thursday is for the misdemeanors.

She is responsible for getting the prisoners that are due in court from jail to the holding cells in the courthouse.  There are two vans used, where men and women are transported separately.  There are as many as 25 to 35 transferred each time court is in session.  On court days, she wears a uniform and pistol and takes the prisoners from the holding cells to the courtroom and back.

Part of Joani’s responsibility is to make sure the right prisoners are brought to the courthouse.  Also, if they are released on their own recognizance or on bail, she makes sure the paperwork is handled properly and the right prisoners are released.  Currently, there are 82 Anderson County prisoners in the Shelbyville jail.  Ms Clark’s commitment to her job is evidenced by her coming to the office for a few hours every Sunday night to handle the paperwork for those that have “bonded out” and those that will be arraigned via video the next morning.

She works hard to make sure the process works smoothly and fairly.  She treats the prisoners with respect, and they in turn respect her, many of them calling her “Miss Joani.”  She is also responsible for making sure medical and other personal issues the prisoners may have are cared for.  If there are medical issues or perhaps a funeral for a family member, she does what she can to help.  In the case of a funeral, the prisoner might get a furlough to attend.  If a prisoner needs medical attention, they will be taken to the hospital, but they will have a deputy in attendance and they will be handcuffed to the bed, if necessary.

Nothing happens without paperwork, and the legal system has a lot of it. Ms Clark makes sure it is done in a timely manner and done correctly. Joani works hard for the people of Anderson County to make sure the jailers office runs smoothly.  She also looks for cost cutting measures.  For example, for felony transfers of prisoners, the state reimburses the county for mileage and the cost of deputy pay.  One of the many reasons the office of Anderson County Jailer is in good hands.

-Written by Don West

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