Sheriff, mayor: Loudon County jail overcrowding a safety concern
LOUDON — Loudon County’s mayor and sheriff say that jail overcrowding is creating an unsafe environment for county employees.
The jail is currently operating well above the capacity allowed by the state. The state has certified the jail for about 100 prisoners. It’s not unusual for the jail to be holding 150 prisoners or more.
A jail study committee made up of county commissioners and others for years has been reviewing issues such as jail overcrowding and possible solutions including a new or renovated jail.
County Mayor Estelle Herron told the County Commission budget committee in February that two of her jailers were “beaten to death, almost, and neither one has returned to work.”
Herron was speaking in the context of future county budgetary obligations including the need for a new or expanded jail due to overcrowding and safety issues. She suggested that the county could be held libel if employees were subject to unsafe work conditions.
The Sheriff’s Office reports no jailers have been hurt in the past year.
There was an incident in January 2013 where one female jailer had a knuckle broken and the other jailer was spit on the face. The female jailer has had one surgery, returned to light duty, and is scheduled to have another surgery. The jailer that was spat upon had a blood test but no work time was lost.
Sheriff Tim Guider said another jailer was seriously injured in a brawl that occurred about a year and a half ago inside the booking room when a mentally ill prisoner — who was also a professional boxer — tried to escape. The jailer suffered an injury to the knee and has not returned to work.
Concerns about the safety of jailers are not being exaggerated, Guider said. Safety goes hand in hand with the concerns about overcrowding at the facility, he said.
County Commissioner Sharon Yarborough was at the meeting where the discussion about the jailers took place. She said it is important for commissioners to know about such incidents so that they can make decisions such as the funding of a new jail.