After numerous close calls in the past few years, Tennessee Corrections Institute this week decertified Loudon County Jail.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw and Sheriff Tim Guider appeared before the TCI board June 1 in Nashville.
In addition to overcrowding, a TCI inspection in March noted that although fire drills were being conducted quarterly at the facility, not all staff members attended.
Officials were also instructed that medical “continuity of care” was required from time of admission into the jail to inmates’ transfer or discharge, parts of the jail needed to be cleaned more thoroughly and wall graffiti, excess items and contraband needed to be removed in cell areas.
TCI reinspected the jail May 6.
Jail Administrator Lt. Jake Keener said all deficiencies except overcrowding had been resolved by last month.
“That was my biggest disappointment was we worked and we met with the state officials and showed them that we were working toward trying to get the jail issue resolved, and we get a presentation from the County Corrections Partnership Committee, the jail study committee, showing the different options and their recommendations and were right to the point of county commission voting on what can we do to help this issue and then we get decertified before we get a chance to vote on it,” Steve Harrelson, Loudon County Commission chairman, said.
Statistics show that 268 inmates were released from the jail in May, and the center took in 298. The average daily count for May was 141, which is 39 more than last year.
“It’s really a bad situation for me,” Leo Bradshaw, commissioner and jail committee member, said. “I really get frustrated with our actions on solving that problem. We just don’t have the support to make a choice to get anything done. I think reconsidering the higher costs of moving the jail to a different site really set us back because there’s not support to do that because of the amount of (a) tax increase, and at the same time it delayed progress we were making on going down to the one or two options and making a decision on the option, which to me made the most sense.”
Per a request from the Loudon County Corrections Partnership Committee, officials with Loudon County Sheriff’s Office and the Ninth Judicial District Attorney General’s office went before commission during last month’s workshop to stress the importance of resolution.
Jail committee members in April narrowed options down to adding a new courtroom and more jail space with 275 beds at the current justice center for about $20 million or building a standalone facility for about $31 million at Centre 75 Business Park in the city of Loudon. During the workshop, LCSO officials and District Attorney General Russell Johnson introduced a third option for about $16.5 million that included a cheaper courtroom scheme.
Commission ultimately decided jail committee members needed to pick a single option for consideration.
“I don’t know how that vote will go on the committee, but I’d love to be able to come to a decision and move forward,” Leo Bradshaw said. “Actually, we can probably move forward without a tax increase by just by taking the funding that we have from different sources, maybe from the ... security fees and some of the fees that’s generated from the court system and maybe go ahead and have the architect start. It’s going to take some time for an architect to start, but first off we’ve got to get support from the full commission or at least the majority of county commission before we can really spend any money.”
In a previous interview, TCI Communications Director Kevin Walters said decertification opens the jail up for potential lawsuits if little to no progress is made toward resolving the issue.
“Certification can be obtained by correcting the deficiencies,” Walters said in an email correspondence. “Upon the completion of the following year’s random/unannounced inspection (if all deficiencies are corrected) certification can be obtained.”
The designation given by TCI is effective immediately, Walters said.
“I think it’s going to cause a lot of problems and I think by being decertified it may not mean anything immediately, but I think we’ll see increases in our insurance, our liability insurance, for the jail and the justice center,” Leo Bradshaw said. “We’ll probably (see) more lawsuits filed by inmates for things they may not have filed if that decertification hadn’t happened because you’ll see probably more people involved trying to get something out of it.”