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Op-Ed: Personal Responsibility Needed in the Jail and the Boardroom

The following op-ed is written by Daviess County Jailer Art Maglinger, a member of the Kentucky Jailers Association

When an inmate is brought into our jail, the process of taking personal responsibility for actions begins.

First, the accused/convicted offender must spend time behind bars because of their violation of the law. And while they are here, they can participate in programming aimed at helping them avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Whether it is mental health counseling, education and workforce training or substance abuse treatment, we offer every inmate the support they need to reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe.

While the health and safety of inmates is our primary focus, our dedicated staff recognizes their vital role as public servants who can positively impact the future of our community. Thankfully, there is proven programming in county jails across Kentucky that can help inmates improve their lives and avoid returning to jail in the future. If our deputies and employees come to work every day ready to equip our inmates to become productive members of society, then I believe we have done our job.

Unfortunately, one of the worst problems we see in our jail — and in society as a whole — is opioid dependence and substance abuse. When individuals get addicted to drugs, they risk losing their jobs, becoming homeless, and too often they wind up spending some time at our jail. And while the personal responsibility falls on them for every decision they make, they didn’t create this drug epidemic that has destroyed far too many lives in our Commonwealth.

How did the opioid epidemic begin in the first place? Why have so many of our fellow Kentuckians fallen prey to this disease of addiction?

For too long, corporate executives who fueled the spread of opioids into our communities escaped personal responsibility for their role. Even as public officials began sounding the alarm on this crisis, high-paid consultants were ramping up their efforts to push pills and boost profits. One multi-billion-dollar consulting firm called McKinsey & Company even advised companies on how to “turbocharge” opioid sales. 

When I hear that roughly 90% of all opioid pills in this country were sold by McKinsey clients for nearly a decade, I think of the thousands of substance abuse survivors who have passed through our jail. Their lives have been changed forever by these far-off executives who likely never gave us in Kentucky a moment of consideration.

Thankfully, champions across the country, including Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron, have made great progress in making corporations like McKinsey pay for what they’ve done. Now, desperately needed resources are coming into our state to support prevention and treatment efforts. 

This crisis cannot be easily undone. But that must not deter us from continuing to fight.

I encourage our elected officials in Washington to build upon the crucial work that Attorney General Cameron has done and investigate McKinsey’s role in the epidemic. The company’s executives may not be willing to take personal responsibility, but those in power can continue to hold this callous corporation and others like it accountable so they can never again cause similar harm to Kentucky families, children, and communities.

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