If you’re a law-abiding citizen who’s ever wondered what it’s like to spend the night in the pokey, here’s your chance to find out.
Oldham County is getting ready to open a new $22 million jail, and it’s hosting a sleepover first.
The event this Friday night is a fundraiser for 16 community groups and is billed as a training opportunity for the staff of the new Oldham County Detention Center, which is scheduled to open later this month.
According to a flier posted online, “volunteer inmates” will get “one fun-night in jail,” which includes a framed souvenir mug shot, a commemorative T-shirt, a tour of the jail, dinner Friday night, breakfast Saturday morning and snacks.
The minimum donation required is $100, and the event capacity is 300 people.
Proceeds will be shared among the 16 organizations which are taking reservations for the event. Children of middle school age and up are allowed, so long as they are accompanied by an adult.
But some say the event isn’t all fun and games.
Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice posted on Facebook on Friday that it planned to join with several other groups to ask that the event be canceled.
“We find this mockery of incarceration shocking and deplorable,” Showing Up for Racial Justice’s post stated. “Mass incarceration, including detention of undocumented immigrants, is not a joke.”
Showing Up for Racial Justice asked people to call the organizations participating in the fundraiser and ask them not to participate.
Oldham County Judge Executive David Voegele told Louisville television station WHAS that he had received requests from members of the public who are curious and would like “to spend the night in there, see what it’s like.”
“Everybody has a point of view as to what is and what is not appropriate,” he told the television station. “I don’t think we are making light of people who don’t stay within the rules of society.”
The Humane Society of Oldham County responded to criticism about the event on its Facebook page, saying in part: “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. 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 organization’s post went on to offer details of the event, including the advice that “you can bring your own jammies or borrow a striped jumpsuit for hunkering down in your jail cell bunk.”
Other organizations sharing in the fundraiser are the American Red Cross, Hope Health Clinic, LaGrange Main Street Program, Ohio Valley Railroad Foundation, Oldham County History Center, Oldham County Youth Football, Oldham County Youth Soccer, Second Stride, Oldham County Boosters, Tri-County Community Action, South Oldham Little League, the Arts Association of Oldham County, Crossroads Pregnancy Resource Center, HighPoint Charitable Services and Apple Patch, an organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In its Facebook post about the event, HighPoint offered the opportunity for groups to make a $1,000 donation and bring up to 13 friends and family to share a cell for the night.
“Showers are available in the cells, but as there are no shower curtains, you may wish to wait to get home to shower,” the post stated.
Voegele has volunteered to spend the night in solitary confinement if $5,000 is raised, and a GoFundMe account had been set up to collect donations. By Saturday, he’d raised $80 toward his goal.
For members of the public who want to see the new facility but don’t want to be locked up for the night to do it, the jail is hosting an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 7.
The Courier Journal reported in 2016 that the new 62,000 square-foot jail will have 334 beds and may allow Oldham County to house out-of-county inmates, reducing the burden taxpayers will bear to operate the facility.
The old jail can house about 115 inmates and stays at or over capacity, the newspaper reported.