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The Great Smoky Mountain Journal


Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2019 02:32 PM

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Jails Across East Tennessee Well Above Capacity

Jails across East Tennessee have gone well above capacity. Officers said it's putting a strain on the inmates and the corrections officers.

Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider said the Loudon County jail has double the inmates it can house. The one and only women's block only has 13 beds, but 50 inmates.

"We are out of jumpsuits, we are out of mats. It doesn't take much to set people off," Guider said.

Guider said the overcrowding has gotten to a point that some people have avoided jail time and that he's requested other agencies to only bring people to jail if absolutely necessary.

"We're trying to mitigate it by asking other agencies to not bring people to jail and run more citations," Guider said.

The same is true at Roane County jail. Chief Deputy Tim Phillips said the jail can only hold 170 inmates but has well over 260.

Chief Phillips said moving inmates to other county jails is impossible because most all other jails are full and that it could cost almost $40 a day to house an inmate at another county.

"We do not have that kind of money in our budget to pay another county to house our inmates so its not an option," Phillips said.

Both jails have had to become creative in finding ways to house inmates. Loudon County jail said they keep the thermostat cool to keep inmates from losing their tempers. A hallway also had to be converted to a cell space for male inmates.

Chief Phillps of Roane County said the overcrowding problem has spread across East Tennessee, and sending inmates to other jails is simply not an option.

Both Loudon County and Roane County jails want to expand. For Roane, the funds have not been approved yet, but in Loudon County things have begun to take shape, according to Sheriff Guider.

County commissioners have approved a $15 million dollar budget for Loudon County Jail. The new jail would include hundreds of more beds and give female inmates their own building. Loudon County commissioner Henry Cullen said the decision was necessary.

"First thing was officer safety. Second thing was overcrowding. This decision fixes both of those," Cullen said.