Overcrowding in Loudon County Jail

The prescription pill epidemic is not just taking over lives. It's crowding jails.

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - It's a problem in several counties, and in Loudon County, it's critical.

Right now there are 132 inmates in the county's jail. That's not as high as the number's been in recent months, but still 36 inmates over capacity.

Sheriff Tim Guider first took office 20 years ago. In 2004, he oversaw the jail's expansion from 58 beds to 96.

He says they've been holding more than 100 prisoners for several years, but now the problem is getting out of hand.

So they're putting some with lighter sentences back on the streets.

"Issuing citations in lieu of an arrest. And I've talked to the judges and tried to see about getting some people released or lesser bonds maybe," said Guider.

Jail Administrator Teresa Smith says they need at least 60 more beds just to house the current prisoners. Now, it's taking a toll on the workers.

"Not only on staff, which we're short on. It take s a toll on our medication and our food budget," said Guider.

"The kitchen's down that way. That poses a problem too because we're having to buy more food, cook more food. All that runs into time and expense as well as manpower," said Smith.

County Mayor Estelle Herron formed a committee to study what it would take to build a new jail or an expansion.

"See where we are and what we're going to have to have and put that new jail in the works for down the road," said Herron.

The key phrase is "down the road."

A recent property tax increase to build a new school in an already tight economy comes first

The jail has not held fewer than 109 prisoners in the past year, and the number peaked at 167 in May.

Guider says he also is hoping to build a law enforcement training facility in the county, but just like the jail, it's more than a few years away.