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Jail destruction by inmates proves costly
jackie matheny jr.jpg

Newly elected Sheriff Jackie Matheny Jr. is having trouble with inmates tearing up fire sprinklers and it is becoming costly. 

At the County Correction Partnership meeting Tuesday night, Commissioner Steven Helton asked Matheny about any issues with the jail. Matheny says inmates are tearing up sprinklers.

“The fire sprinklers, we are going to have to have them fixed. I think they called Fire Pro to come in and they are going to charge us $100 an hour to fix the sprinklers,” said Matheny.

“What’s the matter with them?” asked Helton.

“They’re busting them. I mean we have several that are busted,” said Matheny. 

Jail Administrator Mike Vann explained the inmates are just acting out and causing a big mess.

“Just for behavior issues they’ll act out and break the sprinkler heads off and it floods the place. We have to shut everything down and clean everything up. Maintenance was taking care of that, but we have learned that to work on the sprinkler heads you have to be certified so it looks like it is going to fall to whatever that company was,” said Vann.

Matheny suggested looking into installing sprinklers that are inserted into the ceiling that come out when needed. He says inmates are currently throwing towels, shirts, and things like that at the sprinklers and breaking them. 

“Did we have that problem before? I guess I’ll have to look at them when we go look,” Commissioner Kasey Owens said.

“Well, they just didn’t start doing it when I got elected,” said Matheny.

“No, I just haven’t heard about it in our previous safety meetings,” said Owens. “Is there something you can put over them?” 

Matheny said he wasn’t sure but said he would ask. One way Matheny thinks they can punish the inmates who break the sprinklers is by potentially charging them with a felony. 

“One thing we can look at is charging them with a felony when they do that now. The amount of water that comes out we can calculate how much that is going to cost and it might get up there to that felony amount and we can charge a felony,” said Matheny. 

He also suggested taking away their “good time” as a punishment. 

“If they’re back there and they have mistreated a correctional officer or spit on a CO or anything like that or break the sprinkler heads or whatever, you can send them to the disciplinary board and take their good time away from them. Of course, that is not going to help the jail population, but we can’t just let them run the place,” said Matheny. 

The TCI board was scheduled to visit the jail Wednesday and Matheny was going to ask about possible solutions for the sprinkler problems.