Kentucky Woman Fights To Get In Prison To Visit Her Husband

Jun 4, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Since November 2010, Leslie Young has been barred from visiting her husband serving life in a Kentucky prison and is suing to once again be able to see him.

The Lexington woman married 39-year-old Gerald Young at Western Kentucky Correctional Center on March 2, 2009. She claims prison wardens around Kentucky have barred her from visiting her husband, but won't give a valid reason why her access was cut off on Dec. 1, 2010. Young received a letter from one prison warden saying she was banned from visiting all state prisons.

Kentucky Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb declined to comment on Young's allegations, citing the pending lawsuit. But, she said, the prisons are in compliance with visitation rules.

The couple last visited at Northpoint Training Center in Burgin on Nov. 29, 2010. The Youngs allege that Gerald Young was placed in segregation while officials investigated a complaint he made against a Northpoint guard.

Steve Haney, the warden at Northpoint Training Center in Burgin, sent Leslie Young a letter two days later informing her of the permanent ban from all Kentucky prisons until further notice. At the time, Gerald Young was at the central Kentucky prison.

Haney's letter cites a policy allowing the state to ban visitors from prisons if "it is believed that your presence constitutes a probable danger to institutional security and interferes with the orderly operations of the institution."

The Youngs' attorney, Robin Cornette, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Monday.

Gerald Young is serving life in prison for complicity to commit murder in June 1997. Originally sentenced to death for hiring a hit-man to kill Osama Salash in Lexington as part of a drug dispute. The Kentucky Supreme Court in 2001 overturned the death sentence, finding no aggravating circumstances to warrant capital punishment. Two other men were also sentenced to prison in the slaying.

Kentucky's policies on prison visits, obtained by The Associated Press as a public record, give wardens discretion over who may visit and, in some cases, how frequently they may visit and for how long. The policies also allow wardens to decide if someone should be barred. The policies do not generally give visitors a way to appeal a ban.

Haney's letter does not cite a specific reason for the ban. In a response filed in court, Corrections Department attorney Wesley W. Duke denied any wrongdoing by the department and said the Youngs had not made a valid legal claim.

In an affidavit, Leslie Young said Haney spoke with wardens around the state about the decision to ban her.

"I was told by several state government employees and officials that it did not matter where my husband was incarcerated and that even if he was transferred outside Northpoint Training Center that all of the wardens would honor the ban and that none of the other wardens would reconsider, give me any hearing, or consider any lesser form of restriction upon my visitation with my husband," Young wrote.

Since Leslie Young's banishment, Gerald Young has been transferred to Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty. Leslie Young alleges she's been barred from that prison, too.

The Youngs want Hood to restore face-to-face visitation rights and declare the visitation policies unconstitutional. They also are seeking unspecified damages.