During a “roundtable discussion” held between Tennessee Corrections Institute Deputy Director William Walls and members of Warren County’s Corrections Partnership Committee and jail officials on Thursday, Walls recommended the removal of state inmates to ease overcrowding.
“Immediately remove as many of those state inmates as you can,” said Walls. “That’s the No. 1 thing that you could do.”
Jail population on Thursday was 308. Of those, 64 are state inmates who are eligible to be housed at a state penitentiary. Warren County receives $39 per day per inmate from the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
“I understand how much it contributes to your budget,” said Walls. “That’s up to you. However many you decide to hold is however many you decide to hold, but the ability to reduce that population is there. If you need to reduce that population, we can communicate with the Department of Corrections and see how many can be relocated to other facilities.”
Warren County received $903,096 in revenue last year for housing those inmates.
Numbers presented during the last meeting of the committee indicated that expenditures were $1.2 million, which prompted Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin to state, “You’re stepping over dollars to get to quarters.”
In attendance at this meeting was newly elected Sheriff Tommy Myers. Committee chair Steven Helton questioned him about the possibility of relinquishing some of the state inmates.
“Have you identified any state inmates you can relocated? If they have a court case coming up, we don’t want to move them this week and go back to get them next week. Have you identified another group that we could flush out of here to ease overcrowding?”
Myers stated, “Yes, we could get rid of most of them.”
Helton questioned if any of those inmates would need to be transported back to Warren County to stand trial on charges. Myers stated that most have no pending cases but transporting an inmate is cheaper than housing.
“In the long run, Steven, it’s cheaper to transport them than it is to hold them,” said Myers. “It would be cheaper to transport them back and forth than to hold them.”
For several years, the jail has been under the watchful eye of the state for overcrowding. Jail capacity is 250.
Walls says the removal of state inmates would show an effort by the county to correct overcrowding but more is needed as the jail lacks programs to reduce recidivism and is understaffed even if the population was reduced to 250.
“I’ve see jails across the state,” he said. “Guess which jails don’t get things torn up? Direct supervision jails. That’s an officer in every single unit who’s managing those inmates, who is watching every cell, who’s letting them out to recreation, who’s letting them do things and addressing bad behavior as it occurs.”
At this time, the jail has 34 correctional officers that work four shifts: eight on two shifts and nine on two shifts. A study by the state found the jail needed a staff of 64, based on its current capacity of 250.
The roundtable discussion lasted more than two hours. No final decision was made on removal.