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Jail woes detailed in report
jail woes - ceiling.jpg
One problem at Warren County Jail is metal ceilings that can be pried open by inmates. Years ago, an inmate did this to successfully escape his cell.

A wide array of challenges facing Warren County Jail have been outlined by the state. 

The county’s Corrections Partnership Committee has reviewed an assessment of the jail provided by four jail consultants.

“We need to take this assessment very seriously,” said Commissioner Steven Helton, chair of the committee. “These are the people who will be doing the jail’s recertification evaluation. We need to correct as many items as we can before then.”

Bullet points identified a number of trouble areas that need immediate attention. Corrective action must be sustainable and preventive maintenance is imperative, according to the report.

“Correctional officers play a big role in identifying areas where inmates are tampering with the fixtures,” the report said. “Taking disciplinary action against those offenders and reinforcing jail rules and modifying inmate behaviors is imperative to inmate management.”

The list of issues is lengthy. 

Trouble areas that need immediate attention include: lights, toilets (replace all porcelain including sinks), plumbing, intercom system, door locks, shower leaks, metal ceiling problems, wiring, and removing plastic drink bottles (one direct cause of plumbing problems).

The list of issues contained several other items as well.

Helton asked if the plastic drink bottles have been removed, to which jail administrator Jackie Rackley said they are looking into it. 

“If the state is recommending we stop providing those, we need to get on that as fast as we can,” said Helton. 

At this time, the county has one maintenance person who works on all county buildings. The report recommended the county consider hiring a maintenance person dedicated to the jail to begin working on the lengthy list of trouble areas that can be completed in-house.

It also recommended hiring someone for inmate population management – a person tasked with classification duties, monitoring inmate numbers in relation to charge classification of minimum, medium, and maximum. 

According to the report, “By monitoring these numbers on a daily basis, the advantages will be twofold. Proper inmate housing assignments and assist in population control.”

During the inspection, the jail population was 301. It is certified for 251. 

Recommendations to alleviate overcrowding:

Convert current storage to housing and relocate storage upstairs, gaining approximately 16 beds. 

Completely gut old jail area and booking. Renovate and construct new booking area at other end of jail. Storage area move upstairs. Convert current storage into two smaller program rooms. Net gain of 35 beds. Estimated cost $4 million. 

Construct a new housing area in either the male recreation area or outside the building where the jail expansion was planned. Relocate storage upstairs and convert storage into program space. Potential to gain 64 new, low-security beds. No cost estimate given.

Reconfigure booking, reconfigure current storage, and reconfigure segregation and housing unit 54 to add 38 new beds. Relocate storage upstairs and utilize trailer for programs. Estimated cost $3 million. 

The jail is scheduled to be inspected for recertification in 2019. No exact date will be given for the surprise inspection.

The report was issued by Tennessee Corrections Institute program coordinator Bob Bass, County Technical Assistance Service jail management consultant Jim Hart, TCI detention facility consultant Miller Meadows, and TCI deputy director William Wall.