GREENUP Larry Pancake, a month into his term in Jailer, is determined to do more than just change the name on the wall.
Pancake, a former Greenup County deputy sheriff, isn’t polished like a typical politician. He shoots from the hip, he says what’s on his mind and whether a person is wearing an orange jump suit or a deputy jailer badge, he treats them just about the same.
Showing The Daily Independent Pancake stated Tuesday morning that cleaning up the Greenup County Jail was his first order of business as he entered the building.
The library was a junk room that served as a catch all, and the same could be said for the sallyport. Today, both are cleared out — the sallyport has a sign up stating “Welcome Back Officers.”
But it’s more than just the cleaning out space — Pancake said he’s trying to change the culture of the jail, pivoting toward an emphasis on rehabilitation.
“I worked the road for a long time and I can tell you, most of these people in here aren’t bad people,” he said. “I’d say 90% of these people have a drug problem. They’re not bad people, they’ve just done stupid things.”
Craig Grubb, an inmate who was held in jail on minor charges since December, has seen a shift toward rehabilitation.
“I’ve been in and out of here a few times and I can say, it’s been a complete 180,” Grubb said, catching a moment while cleaning in the sallyport. “He’s here to help people and I can see that the attitude of the deputies is more positive.”
Pancake stated that Grubb is an excellent guy with lots of potential.
“Give him a tool and he can fix it,” Pancake said. “I’m really big on helping with this addiction thing, so people don’t keep coming back.”
Pancake expressed his desire to enroll Grubb in classes to train him to be a peer support specialist. Peer support specialists (recovering addicts) are those who assist other addicts on their path to sobriety.
“I think I can help a lot of people that way because I’ve been there myself,” Grubb said. “It’s hard to relate to it unless you’ve been there.”
Pancake also hopes to start moral recognition therapy which teaches inmates about the impact of their actions on others. He’s also partnered with Pathways to get the “First Step Forward” program, which helps inmates get forms of identification.
Brittany Herrington is a Pathways coordinator and said that the First Step Forward program was instrumental in helping people to live productive lives once they are released from prison.
The current statistics from Clark, Mason, and Montgomery counties that have adopted the program show that 73% of applicants needed IDs and 69% required social security cards. 73% also needed birth certificates.
Herrington stated that people are driven to the margins when they lack identification.
“It’s everything,” she said. “If you want housing, if you need to apply for food stamps, if you’re trying to get employment, you’re going to need ID.”
Pancake also said he’s just signed up for the University of Kentucky HEAL initiative, which gets inmates being released Narcan and gets them a cab voucher for 20 miles away from the jail.
“It gets them out of the elements and it also reduces crime,” he said. “If you release somebody and they don’t have any transportation, they might steal cars or bicycles.”
Back at the jail, Pancake said he’s been trying to institute little things to boost morale — out in the courtyard, he’s prepping to put in cornhole boards and a basketball hoop. He’s also ordered balls for the inmates to bounce off the walls.
“Right now they ball up some socks real tight and use it as a ball,” he said. “They call it sock ball.”
It’s little things like that — along with bringing back in-person visitations and the occasional serving of popcorn — that make managing the inmates a little easier, Pancake said.
“These privileges are rewards for good behavior,” he said. “If they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, I can take them away. It’s a big deal to have contact with the outside. So if they know they can lose that, they’re on their best behavior.”
While Pancake’s predecessor, Mike Worthington, started getting churches into the jail toward the end of his tenure, Pancake said it’s taken off under his watch.
“Everybody gets God when they end up in jail,” he said. “But this is more of a guidance thing. We have three churches who are going to bring services into here and we’re working with the inmates to let them have prayer groups and Bible studies.”
Of course, it’s not all inmates — Pancake said he’s done a little house cleaning on the personnel side as well. Some Greenup Countians will recall that there was a little uproar on social networks days after Pancake took office. He let go two officers of high rank.
Pancake claimed that the move was motivated by performance, even though some thought it was politically motivated.
“I think the old me would’ve come out swinging about it, but I kind of surprised myself when I let it go,” he said. “These higher-paid people weren’t doing anything and I don’t think they would’ve been a good fit for the direction I wanted to go.”
Upon taking office, Pancake said he had everyone reapply for their jobs — a few more left on their own accord and what he had left was a pretty good crew.
He said that they are lacking training.
“I have some people here who aren’t firearm-qualified,” he said. “They’ve worked here for years. So I’m training to make sure everyone is up to standard. I think if everyone is properly trained, that will go a long ways.”
Not everyone who works at the jail is a deputy jailer — back in the kitchen, Tammie Grant oversees the trustees cooking up batches of pizza to feed the 100 plus inmates in the facility.
Grant worked part-time for three and a half years, and then took over the kitchen in Oct 2022.
“I love it here,” she said. “We have a good group of girls — I feel like God put me here for a reason.”
Pancake stated that he would like to see the jail get more involved in the work farm so that it can maximize its potential to provide fresh vegetables to the prison, and thus reduce the grocery bill.
He wants to hire work crews for cleaning up some public cemeteries as well as Little League field cleanups.
Readers in Boyd County might look at the changes Pancake is instituting and realize it closely mirrors Bill Hensley’s playbook at the Boyd County Detention Center.
Pancake said since he’s taken office, he’s looked to Hensley as a mentor.
“He’s got one of the top county jails in the state, if you ask me,” Pancake said. “I’ve definitely gone to him with questions and I look up to him as we make changes here.”
Hensley called Pancake’s remarks “a high compliment.”
“I have a really good working relationship with him and I think he’s trying hard to do things the right way,” Hensley said. “Like myself, he came up as a street cop. So if there’s any way I can help him and point out some things we’ve done right and some things he can avoid, I’m happy to be a small part in helping him.”