Inmates at Warren County Jail looking to leave their cells for the comfort of a psychiatric couch may have to wait. Hiring a jail counselor has been placed on temporary hold.
Commissioner Steven Helton says Sheriff Tommy Myers has expressed a desire to wait on hiring for this position.
“What he has told me is that he has personally made a couple legal calls,” said Helton during Thursday’s meeting of the county Corrections Partnership Committee. “There are some legal concerns as far as the liability and having that person here. He’s reached out and hopefully we’ll get some answers. He said he’s got some phone calls out and he’s expecting some phone calls back.”
Myers was not in attendance at the meeting. Helton says the hold is temporary.
“He’s promised me that in one month’s timeframe that we’d have the job scope clearly identified and hopefully, he might even get it bid out or something in process,” said Helton.
Myers also expressed a concern about the lack of available space to allow for confidentiality between the counselor and inmate.
“As of right now, we don’t have a good spot where they can talk in confidence to bring an inmate in and actually sit down and have that conversation without the fear of HIPAA violations,” said Helton. “That may be one thing that we as a committee need to look at. I know we still have some bond money available. We may need to look at some office space or take out some program space or a corner of a room once that space is built.”
Among other business addressed during the meeting, the jail’s population was reported to be 260 inmates (210 males, 50 females). Of the 260, 23 are state inmates, meaning they are eligible to be transferred by the Tennessee Department of Corrections to a prison.
“We are in really good compliance,” said Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin.
Capacity at the jail is listed as 251 inmates.
“The inmates of Tennessee Department of Corrections don’t count against us so we are under 251,” said Helton.
The full-time counselor would assess inmates coming into the jail and offer counseling to address mental health and substance abuse issues as a way to reduce recidivism. Within the budget is $50,000 for a counselor.