New Jail Part 3

In New Jail, Part 1 we covered the background on the idea of a new jail. In New Jail Part 2 we looked at the actual numbers and facts pertaining to the need for a new jail. Now we'll look at possible alternatives to an expensive new jail.

Even though we paid an architectural/engineering firm $27,500.00 to do a feasibility study on the jail and the public safety facilities, the study didn't really do any research on how to deal with the over crowding situation except for a new or expanded facility.

The study looked at three different aspects of  our justice system, the jail, officer safety and the judicial system operations. As stated previously, it would be great if the county could afford a grand, new state of the art facility but that's just not financially feasible right now.

Apparently, jail over crowding seems to be the most pressing problem. So short of a whole new complex, are their other solutions that could help? I think so.

Using the December TDOC report again as an example, our jail was 13 inmates over the 91 bed capacity. This same report showed that we were housing 17 state inmates. It seems obvious that the quickest fix would be to stop housing state inmates.

When the 2004 jail addition was built, state law mandated that inmates had to have an outdoor recreation area. This area consists of a large, secure room with no roof where inmates are allowed to walk around. Could this room be converted into another inmate dormitory and a new rec area be built? It could and would be much cheaper than a whole new complex.

In the December report, we were housing 42 pretrail felony inmates and 19 pretrial misdemeanor inmates. These are inmates who were arrested and awaiting trial. This accounts for more than half the jail's population. There were well over 500 vacant jail beds in Knox and Anderson County in December. When over crowding is a problem could Loudon County possibly work out something to house some prisoners in Knox and Anderson County till they go to court. I think we could.

The commission has also heard a presentation from a company that provides offsite monitoring systems for certain inmates awaiting trail. This would seem to be an option that deserves investigating.

With so many pretrial felony inmates taking space in the jail, would there be any way to expedite the judicial process to dispose of these inmate cases where they could be moved to state facilities if found guilty?

The state of Tennessee will pay local jails $37 per day to house state inmates. If the county were to house at least 40 state inmates every day all year, that would generate enough revenue to pay for a ten million dollar addition to the current jail. Other counties in the state have built large jail additions and financed the additions with state inmate funds costing the local tax payers nothing.

The idea of a forty-seven, forty-four or even a twenty-four million dollar program to address what could only be considered minor overcrowding seems like a bit of overkill. There are other options that should be explored long before the idea of a big tax increase is ever passed. Hopefully, we can find a logical solution that meets our needs. Some times we just need to think outside the box.