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Former corrections leader in Fayette County remembered for his innovative approach to incarceration

Fayette County Detention Center
Lexington government
Fayette County Detention Center

The Kentucky man credited with innovative jail construction and operational methods is being remembered. Ray Sabbatine died earlier this week at the age of 74.

For years, Ray Sabbatine’s name in Lexington was synonymous with new ideas in corrections. He was the last to be Fayette County jailer and the first to head the Division of Community Corrections. Lexington Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Glenn Brown worked in corrections for 29 years, much of it with Sabbatine.

“I would characterize Ray one as a very caring person, very dedicated person, and an innovator. Ray was ahead of his time as far as corrections is concerned,” said Brown.

Brown said the direct supervision jail, which opened in 2000 under Sabbatine’s leadership, was the first in the state. More than 20 years later it still attracts visitors looking to build a new jail. Brown, who succeeded Sabbatine as director, said he was always looking for ways to make things better in the jail environment.

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton offered remarks at the start of Tuesday’s work session. Gorton said Sabbatine was a wonderful man, beloved by many people. She said detention took on a new look under Sabbatine’s leadership.

“Then when it came time to build our new jail, he visited jails all over the country to ensure that we got the best plan and design for what was most effective,” said Gorton.

Lexington Council Member Denise Gray spoke of Mrs. Sabbatine as a wonderful teacher and enjoying pizza from Sabbatine’s restaurant. Council Member Tayna Fogel talked of being on a road crew and then helping prepare for the opening of the then new jail. She said she also had a bed in the jail when there was not the emphasis on treatment before arrest. Fogel said there would likely be stories from former inmates to talk about good treatment at a Sabbatine run facility. The Council member would like to see the detention center re-named in Sabbatine’s honor.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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