Commissioner Tona Monroe calls for immediate meeting of Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing discretionary inmates after AG’s opinion on state sentenced felons.

The Tennessee Attorney General (AG) has now opined that jails aren’t required to house state felons sentenced to more than one year of continuous confinement.  It is no longer just my (Tona Monroe) interpretation, as the local paper reported.  It’s also the interpretation of the AG.

For Immediate Release: Commissioner Tona Monroe requests immediate meeting of Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing discretionary inmates after AG’s opinion on state sentenced felons.

Contact Tona Monroe
(865) 856-0814
tona@breezeair.net

June 21, 2016

Commissioner Monroe issued the following statement on Tennessee AG opinion 16-21.

The sheriff, mayor and some commissioners have been pushing to spend what could be tens of millions of Blount County taxpayer dollars on jail expansion because the current facility is “overcrowded”. Commissioner Tona Monroe has repeatedly pointed out that the facility is only “overcrowded” because the sheriff insists on keeping a large number of federal inmates that the county is under no legal obligation to take. In addition, the sheriff is housing a large number of state prisoners. It has been shown that both arrangements are a loss to the taxpayers of Blount County. Now a new opinion by the Tennessee Attorney General makes it clear that the county is not obligated to house the state prisoners either.

This eliminates any need to spend huge amounts of money to expand the Blount County Adult Detention Facility (jail). Based on the most recent month’s jail population statistics, if the federal and state prisoners were removed, the Blount County jail would be well under capacity.

Commissioner Tona Monroe is calling for an immediate meeting of the Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing the discretionary state and federal inmates from the jail, in order to save tens of millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

###

Previous jail summary reports are available here: https://www.tn.gov/correction/article/tdoc-jail-summary-reports

Trial judges can order immediate removal of inmates to penitentiary or branch prison

From LexisNexis         

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-23-107

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED
© 2016 by The State of Tennessee
All rights reserved

*** Current through the 2015 Regular Session ***

Title 40  Criminal Procedure  
Chapter 23  Execution of Judgment

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-23-107  (2016)

40-23-107.  Safekeeping of inmates — Transfers to penitentiary.

  (a) In counties where, because of the insufficiency of the county jail, or for any other cause, the court may be of opinion that the safekeeping of the inmates may require it, the court may order the immediate removal of inmates to the penitentiary or to the nearest branch prison, at the cost of the state, before the expiration of the time allowed to remove the inmates.

(b) The inmates shall, as soon as possible after conviction, be safely removed and conveyed by the person appointed by the commissioner of correction for that purpose, to the penitentiary, or to one (1) of the branch prisons.

HISTORY: Acts 1883, ch. 171, § 28; impl. am. Acts 1895 (Ex. Sess.), ch. 7, § 10; impl. am. Acts 1915, ch. 20, §§ 2, 9; Shan., §§ 7240, 7241; impl. am. Acts 1919, ch. 39, § 2; impl. am. Acts 1923, ch. 7, § 42; Code 1932, §§ 11846, 11847; impl. am. Acts 1955, ch. 102, § 1; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), §§ 40-3108, 40-3109.

Tensions and an insufficient jail

Shortly after Sheriff James Lee Berrong told the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control about $1 million being earmarked with a plan for another million, he began sending letters to Mayor Ed Mitchell about tensions in the jail.  Copies of the letters were also provided to Craig Garrett, County Attorney (the office of County Attorney has never been created by a private act of the Tennessee General Assembly) and Blount County Commissioners.

When I say letters, I received copies of two letters, one dated September 9, 2015 and the other dated October 28, 2015.  You can read those letters and the additional info that was included with each here.  Shortly after these letter, I began asking questions about federal inmates and discovered the secret plan for money to expand the jail.

Both letters contain the same statement from Sheriff Berrong.  “As you know, if the problem persists, which we expect it will, the repercussions could be detrimental to not only the Sheriff’s Office, but to Blount County also. We are seeing increased tensions in the facility.”

If this is true, why doesn’t the sheriff have the federal inmates and the state sentenced felons, with a sentence of more than a year, removed?  The county is under no obligation to keep either.  State law says counties do not have to house felons with sentences longer than one year in their local jails.  The sheriff himself, signed a contract with the US Marshals Service, without commission approval to house federal inmates in the local jail.  I’ve never been shown what law gives the sheriff authority to sign the contract instead of the mayor.

State law authorizes the sheriff to have the inmates removed to another jail, if the jail is insufficient.  There is an Attorney General opinion on the matter.  See answers to questions 5 and 6.  Considering that the sheriff is voluntarily housing inmates, then he should be taking action to move inmates out of the jail if he thinks the repercussions of his actions, to house discretionary inmates, could be detrimental to the Sheriff’s Office and Blount County.

From LexisNexis

Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-4-121

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED
© 2016 by The State of Tennessee
All rights reserved

*** Current through the 2015 Regular Session ***

Title 41  Correctional Institutions and Inmates  
Chapter 4  Jails and Jailers

Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-4-121  (2016)

41-4-121.  Safekeeping of prisoners — Sufficient jails. 

 (a) The sheriff has the authority, when the jail of the county is insufficient for the safekeeping of a prisoner, to convey the prisoner to the nearest sufficient jail in the state.

(b) In all cases where it is shown to the committing magistrate, judge or court that the jail of the county in which the commitment should be made is insufficient for the safekeeping of the prisoner, the commitment shall be by mittimus or warrant stating the fact to the nearest sufficient county jail.

(c) In all cases where the jail in which a prisoner is confined becomes insufficient from any cause, any circuit or criminal judge, upon the application of the sheriff and proof of the fact, may order the prisoner, by mittimus or warrant, to be removed to the nearest sufficient jail.

HISTORY: Code 1858, §§ 5402-5404 (deriv. Acts 1809 (Sept.), ch. 126, § 4; 1817, ch. 17, § 1); Shan., §§ 7380-7382; Code 1932, §§ 11989-11991; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), §§ 41-1123 — 41-1125.

Blount County pay still not keeping up with the rate of inflation

Mayor Ed Mitchell is bragging about a budget without a tax increase and Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher said the budget process was easy this year.  It’s no wonder that both are happy because they will both get nice raises and be paid substantially more than state law requires.  Hatcher will make 2.13 times the average 2014 salary of Blount County citizens.  Mitchell will make 2.95 times the 2014 average of $42,728.  Does anyone think that the Circuit Court Clerk and Mayor do double and triple the work of the average taxpayer struggling to pay their bills?

These two are patting each other on the back and padding their pockets with your money, while Blount County pay continues to fall below the rate of inflation.  With the 2014 numbers in, Blount County pay actually averaged a $3 drop compared to 2013, when adjusted for inflation.

From the East Tennessee Index:

What does this measure?

The average annual salary in a region in a given year, adjusted for inflation.

Why is this important?

Salaries are a gauge of overall economic health and a measure of the degree to which employees are sharing in the prosperity of a community. They also indicate the vitality of a region and its ability to compete and attract workers.

How is our region performing?

In 2014, the region’s average salary was $43,000, below the average for the state ($45,200) and the nation ($51,400). Since 2000, the region’s average salary increased by 6%, on par with growth nationally and but below statewide (7%). Roane County’s average annual pay grew by 26% over the same time period, more than any other county, while average salary fell in Blount and Sevier counties over that period (both less than 1% respectively). Between 2013 and 2014, the region’s average annual salary increased by 1%, on par with the state increase.

Notes about the data

Data presented in 2014 dollars.

In past years, Blount County was the only county in the region to average pay below the rate of inflation.  With Sevier County joining Blount, two counties that heavily promote tourism, we should be questioning how the governments’ heavy involvement in tourism promotion is actually benefiting its citizens.

With the repeated failures of the Blount Partnership, Chamber, Industrial Development Board and Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority (SMTDA) to foster an environment where average pay keeps up with the rate of inflation, it’s time for the commission to look at abolishing the SMTDA and letting the private sector promote its own tourist attractions.  The roughly $1.5 million that the SMTDA authority is getting from the hotel/motel tax should be used to help the citizens of Blount County by paying down some of the $232.8 million in liabilities (page 24) instead of being used to train gas station attendants (yes the former Tourism Director bragged about training gas station attendants) and give corporate welfare to a select few.

Don’t look for reform anytime soon though.  Commissioner and county school employee Gary Farmer was wearing his Blount Partnership shirt at the commission meeting Thursday evening.  As a commissioner, he gets to vote to fund money that is used for his regular pay raises as a school employee.  What’s inflation to someone with that power?

It’s down to 3: Only Commissioners Akard, Miller and Monroe have not supported increased tax rate

The Blount County Commission consists entirely of Republicans who claim to espouse positions of low tax and small government but actions speak louder than words.  There are now only 3 commissioners who have not voted for a property tax rate that is 15% higher than when they took office in September of 2014, or in the case of Peggy Lambert, left office.

The tax rate for fiscal year (FY) 2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) was $2.15.  In FY 16 the commission raised the tax rate to $2.47.  The tax rate approved for FY 17 is also $2.47.

Last year (FY 16) commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted no on both the tax rate (increase) and the annual budget resolutions.  Commissioner Brad Bowers pulled a Steve Hargis by voting for the budget resolution while voting no on the tax rate resolution.  Commissioner Tom Stinnett took the courageous position of abstaining on the tax rate resolution while voting for the budget resolution.  Neither Bowers or Stinnett should be taken seriously by voters in the future because you can’t vote for most, or all, of the spending without voting for the taxes to pay for the spending.

This year leaves no doubt on their tax and spend ways.  Commissioner Mike Akard was absent from the Commission meeting but he voted no on the tax rate and budget resolutions at the Agenda Committee meeting.  Commissioners Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted no on both the tax rate resolution and budget resolutions at both the Agenda Committee meeting and Commission meeting.

Commissioners Archie Archer, Brad Bowers, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Peggy Lambert and Tom Stinnett all joined the tax and spend crowd this year by voting yes to both the $2.47 tax rate resolution and the annual budget resolution that is partially funded by the $2.47 property tax rate.

Commissioners Archer, Cole and Daly showed the people that they lack firm principles by voting against the tax rate last year and then turning the other way and voting for it this year.  Commissioners Bowers and Stinnett showed last year that they have no principles by their contradictory and cowardly votes last year, respectively.  Peggy Lambert recently wrote that she never voted a tax increase in comments on BC Public Record’s website but a few days later voted for a tax rate that was 15% higher than when she left office in 2014.  Her hypocrisy is clear.  The rest of the commissioners reaffirmed their tax and spend ways.  These commissioners include Andy Allen, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Steve Samples.

Is the ‘Jail’ RFQ resolution ambiguous?

At the April 18, 2016 special called Blount County Commission meeting, a citizen named Fred Anderson spoke during public input saying that the wording of the public notice is ambiguous and that he didn’t think it complied with state law.  You can read the public notice and the resolution that the commission voted on here.  The meeting was called to rush through a resolution to look at expanding the jail and/or programs to appease the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control.  No solution Commissioner Mike Caylor called it buying time.

Anderson’s comments motivated me to reread the public notice and resolution.  After reading both, I noticed that neither the title nor the be it resolved portion of the resolution mention the jail.

The title of the resolution reads:

“RESOLUTION OF THE BLOUNT COUNTY LEGISLATIVE BODY AUTHORIZING THE PURCHASING AGENT TO SOLICIT A REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS FOR ARCHITECTURAL PLANNING AND/OR DESIGN SERVICES AND/OR PROGRAMMING SERVICES FOR BLOUNT COUNTY, TN”

The resolved statements of the resolution read:

“Now therefore be it resolved by the Blount County Legislative Body assembled in special session on the 18th day of April 2016, to authorize the Purchasing Agent to solicit a Request for Qualifications for architectural planning and/or design services and/or program services.

Be it further resolved that this resolution take effect from and after its passage, and that any proper resolution to the contrary is hereby declared null and void, the public welfare requiring.”

There isn’t a word about the jail or what type of design and/or programs services are to be solicited in either the title or the resolved statements of the resolution.  The only place that the jail is mentioned in the resolution is in the whereas statements.  While the whereas statements describe the situation and show intent and reasons for taking action, it is the resolved statements where the commission takes formal action.

The action(s) should be precise in what the commission is attempting to do.  Without any mention of the jail, the resolved statements in the resolution appear to be so broadly written as to authorize the purchasing to solicit a RFQ for architectural planning, and/or design services and/or program services for anything.

Was the resolution even necessary?
The Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham, told the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) that under the Purchasing Act of 1957, a state law, that she could issue the RFQ if the BCCP wanted her to, without commission approval.  Tough talking bully Bob Bass, of the TCI, pushed the BCCP to do it as did William Robert Kane, who puts false statements in the note section of the TCI inspection reports.

Who wrote the resolution?
Here’s the real kicker.  It turns out that the Purchasing Agent wrote this resolution.  She is an attorney, turned Purchasing Agent.  To make matters worse she wrote that the mayor’s attorney (she called him the County Attorney) reviewed the resolution.  Two attorneys reviewed this resolution.  Yet, the resolved action statements don’t mention a jail or program services related to the jail and criminal justice system.  Scary, but par for the course from the court house clique.

This makes me wonder why the Purchasing Agent has been so slow to issue the RFQ.  How hard is it to write a resolution pertaining to the jail and programs for the criminal justice system?  How hard is to the issue the RFQ?  Is there something more going on here?  I don’t know, but I sure am wondering about the competency of the people running the courthouse and justice center.

“There is no such thing as secret money” but there are secret plans for your money

Some of the people who have contributed to Blount County’s fiscal woes are in a tizzy because I dared to mention the secret actions taken to assign $1.5 million for possible jail expansion.  The paper has been doing what it can to excuse the political machine (misnamed good ole’ boys, when there is little good that they do) with repeated stories downplaying the actions taken by Mayor Ed Mitchell and Finance Director Randy Vineyard.

At the Agenda Committee meeting on June 7th, I put forward an amendment to the annual budget resolution that the would prohibit any monies collected by the county that exceeds projected revenues from being designated for any purpose without commission approval.  The sheriff referred to the $1 million that was set aside as an earmark and told the TCI Board of Control, last year, about a plan for another million.  At the June TCI Board of Control meeting that there would be about another half a million this year, which is half a million less that what he told the Board last year.

The accounting term for this $1.5 million is that it is assigned.

From the Governmental Accounting Standards Board:

Assigned Fund Balance

13. Amounts that are constrained by the government‘s intent to be used for specific purposes, but are neither restricted nor committed, should be reported as assigned fund balance, except for stabilization arrangements, as discussed in paragraph 21. Intent should be expressed by (a) the governing body itself or (b) a body (a budget or finance committee, for example) or official to which the governing body has delegated the authority to assign amounts to be used for specific purposes.

Notice the intent for the use of this fund balance for a specific purpose.  The Blount County Corrections Partnership was not told about this assignment even though it is the body charged with making recommendations on the jail and criminal justice system.  The commission and public weren’t told about this assignment.  The public learned about the matter shortly after I did, after I read about the secret plan in the minutes of a state body.

Gary Farmer said, “There is no such thing as secret money.”  The money itself may not be a secret but there was a secret plan with intended use of this money.

No solution Mike Caylor asked if the money could be spent without commission approval.  It can’t.  Any commissioner who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be a commissioner.  This was his attempt to cover for the Mayor, Finance Director and Sheriff who would rather plan their actions in secret rather than discuss the matter in public with the Blount County Corrections Partnership.

The jail has been and remains an important issue in Blount County.  Local government officials should be working diligent to address the needs of our criminal justice system, for the betterment of society.  Instead the Blount County Corrections Partnership only meets a few times a year, information is withheld, meeting minutes don’t fully reflect motions that are made, the Commission Chairman cuts citizens off for referencing the jail study, Mike Caylor calls a point of order when I try to discuss ways to avoid jail expansion and money is assigned in secret.  The public trust has been broken by these actions.

Statement to TCI Board of Control on June 1, 2016

Here is my statement for the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting on June 1, 2016.  Due to the five minute time limit, I wasn’t able to complement my remarks.

Thank you. My name is Tona Monroe. I am a county commissioner representing the 7th district in Blount County and am a member of the Blount County Corrections Partnership.

I come to you today frustrated, as I am sure that you are at times as well. My frustration runs deep, as it does with the people that I represent. Let me share some of the reasons for our frustration.

There was a secret plan to set aside $2 million to expand the jail. The public and I did not know about this until I called the TCI and began asking questions related to jail inspections and certification and obtained and read the Board of control meeting minutes from September 2 of last year.

I did suspect that money was being set aside to build because the revenue projection for housing federal inmates was cut in the current budget. When I asked if it was expected that the number of federal inmates being housed in the Blount County Adult Detention Facility would be reduced, I was told no. The forthright thing would have been to tell the commission and the public that amount of money being appropriated was being reduced so that the additional monies could accumulate for the purpose of addressing needs without our criminal justice system.

The taxpayers funded a study conducted by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning to examine the reasons for overcrowding. The study was a holistic look at the criminal justice system. Rather than embracing what the system can do to improve, several took offense to the assessment. As a result, the conclusions, findings and recommendations have largely been ignored or criticized without a fair hearing on the matter. There has been no hearing from the author on the final report. I tried to get the commission to set a date for a hearing but the Mayor threatened to sue the consultant to silence discussion. There was no lawsuit.

The people of Blount County don’t understand why a few people have worked so hard to avoid direct discussion on the report that over $94,000 of their tax money was spent on.  Then to further stall the matter and avoid direction communication with the consultant, Jim Hart of CTAS was asked to review the ILPP study.

The people are frustrated because they don’t want to live in a prison county. One of my constituents asked me why are we in the prison business, referring to housing federal inmates. The people understand that the ILPP report that some have worked so hard to silence discussion on says that the county does not make money housing federal inmates. They don’t understand why the sheriff continues to house federal inmates when our jail is over crowded.

A citizen recently expressed her frustration to me by asking how the state could threaten to decertify our jail if we don’t look at building, when the state has so many sentenced inmates in our jail that it refuses to house in its prisons. We’ve been told that we have to keep the state sentenced inmates. However, my reading of the state law says otherwise.

TCA 41-8-106 (a) says “No county shall be required to house convicted felons sentenced to more than one (1) year of continuous confinement unless the county, through the authority of its county legislative body, has chosen to contract with the department of correction for the purpose of housing certain felons.”

I asked our Finance Director whether the county has a contract to state sentenced inmates and he said no. Thus, I am wondering why we’re being told that we have to house these state prisoners when the law says otherwise. Furthermore, the county legislative body has not approved the contract to house federal inmate either.  If the county commission hasn’t approved housing these state sentenced felons or federal inmates, why are they there crowding our jail?

According to the data provided by our Jail Administrator, the average daily count of sentenced felons with at least 1 year left to serve during the last year is 174.  If you couple that with the federal inmates in the jail, and removed them, our jail population decreases to below the 350 beds that we have. For example, in March the local paper reported that there were 517 inmates in the jail.  76 were federal and 142 were sentenced inmates awaiting beds in a state facility. If the federal inmates and state sentenced felons were removed the population in the jail on that give would have been 299 inmates, which is below the 350 bed capacity and below the 90% capacity of 315 inmates. People are asking me why we are keeping these state sentenced felons and federal inmates when eliminating them means we wouldn’t be overcrowded. Our citizens can do they math. They know that these discretionary inmates are what are causing the overcrowding.

Another frustrating matter is the false statements in the note section of the recent TCI inspection report.  The report says, “The results were submitted at the April 29, 2014 CCP meeting and reviewed the findings during monthly meetings.”

The statement would partially read true if the first part read, “The preliminary results”.  The final report was not released until May 31, 2014. As for reviewing the findings during monthly meetings, the BCCP does not have monthly meetings.  That has been one of the great frustrations, that I haven’t been able to get the BCCP to meet monthly to discuss the report. The BCCP only met 4 times in 2015.  One of the meetings that was canceled by the chairman was to hear from the author of the ILPP report to discuss the findings.  That meeting was never rescheduled.  Instead Jim Hart did a report on the ILPP report, which brings me to the next statement in the note section of the jail inspection report.

“The County commission has also acquired JIM Hart of CTAS conduct a Feasibility Study for the facility that was discussed during the January 19, 2016 CCP meeting.”

We have a couple of other county commissioners here today (Commissioners Karen Miller and Jamie Daly also attended the Board of Control meeting).  Ask them if they acquired Jim Hart of CTAS to conduct a feasibility study. This was not a commission decision. I wonder how many commissioners even knew about the Hart study, until it was used as an excuse to delay talking about the ILPP study.

“The CCP Committee has continued to send in monthly process reports.”

What progress reports?  If you are receiving monthly reports, they aren’t coming from the BCCP because it doesn’t meet monthly. I have obtained copies of what the Sheriff’s Office is submitting to you. However, the BCCP didn’t get this information, or even a copy of the Plan of Action, until I started requesting it. The Chairman of the BCCP even told the commission secretary to not provide us with a copy of the January 2016 jail inspection report at our January meeting. I didn’t even know that the jail had already been inspected this year and failed its inspection until Bob Bass told us at the January meeting. The BCCP wasn’t given a copy of that inspection report until the March meeting.

The last sentence of the note makes a recommendation. It says, “I strongly recommend that the CCP Committee look at all types of alternative sentencing and pre-trial release as well as reducing the number of discretionary/contracted inmates.”

Please know that the Vice Chairman, who served as acting Chairman of two BCCP meetings during the Chairman’s absence, prohibited me from placing the recommendation to stop housing federal inmates on the BCCP agenda. Here the jail inspector is recommending that we look at the matter and the Vice Chairman won’t even let me put it on the agenda.

Furthermore, the commission secretary who writes the meeting minutes for the BCCP has failed to record two motions that I made at BCCP meetings. One time she didn’t even mention that I made a motion and the second time she mentioned that I made a motion but failed to record what the motion stated. The other members of the BCCP did not seem concerned that motions were left out the meeting minutes.

One member of the BCCP said at the most recent BCCP meeting that the county needed to issue an RFQ to look at jail expansion to buy some time. Buy time for what exactly? Instead of buying some time, the people of Blount County deserve answers, not obstructionism. The people deserve action, not stalling or buying time. The people deserve to know what their local government is planning in open meetings, not by reading TCI meeting minutes.

At the called commission meeting in April to address issuing an RFQ related to the jail, those referencing the ILPP report were cut off when the report was germane to the matter. Citizens were also concerned that some commissioners were told that if they didn’t vote to authorize the RFQ they would be sued.

With all these questionable matters, it is no wonder that that the people are frustrated. I understand and share their frustration.

If you certify the jail today, please do so with the following conditions:

There will be no more stifling of discussion.

No BCCP member will be prohibited from adding items to the agenda.

The BCCP will meet regularly and frequently.

The BCCP will be given all important information in a timely manner.

The BCCP minutes will accurately state all motions made at the meetings.
There will be no more secret plans with taxpayer money.

The commission and public will be told what law authorizes the sheriff to sign a contract with the US Marshals Service to house federal inmates in the local jail.

The commission will be given an explanation from the state as to why state sentenced felons with sentences over one year are still in jail when the state law says that county doesn’t have to keep them.

And last but not least, the citizens will not be shut down during public input for referencing studies that support their positions.

Note: Former BCCP Chairman Tab Burkhalter spoke to the BCCP, after he left office, about the history of the BCCP and the ILPP study.  He shared that the author of the report was willing to have a teleconference with the BCCP on the final report and the findings and conclusions of the study.  That teleconference never happened.  The discussion that took place between the author of the report and the BCCP at the April 2014 meeting was on the draft report.

More info:

March 3, 2016 TCI re-inspection report for Blount County Adult Detention Facility  This was given to me with a cover letter dated February 12, 2016, even though the re-inspection was March 3rd.

Consultant service costs to renegotiate federal inmates/prisoner per diem rate

CTAS jail staffing analysis by Jim Hart

Federal inmate contract with US Marshals Service

Previous jail information is available here.

Are counties required to keep felons sentenced to more than a year?

When Uncle Sugar isn’t your pimp

outhouse

photo: Horatio Bunce

by Horatio Bunce

In my neck of the woods, a “food desert” somewhere in FEMA Region IV, a local business thumbs their nose at the “cell-phone-and-a-pen” unconstitutional platitudes emanating from Washington DC. Folks like us not receiving the corporate welfare benefits that result in forced acceptance of Bill Gates’ Common Core, Pearson Sharia Social Studies, PARCC/SBAC/AIR/UTAH SAGE test question rentals and now apparently co-ed public school locker rooms, are finding it hard to understand why the super-majority Republicans in Tennessee shake in their boots every time Hedy Weinberg utters a threat to federal funding. We “might” get sued. Uncle Sugar “might” withhold your money that was automatically “withheld” from you when you earned it to begin with.  So keep turning those tricks Welfare Queen. You don’t want to get slapped by Uncle Sugar, do you?

All those liberties sold out chasing Uncle Sugar’s dollar (which was yours to begin with). They sure came cheap. You can call it “state-led” all you want, but it is plain to see who is in control.

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.  Proverbs 22:7

 

Are counties required to keep felons sentenced to more than a year?

We’ve been told that the county is required to keep state sentenced inmates until the Department of Corrections takes them.  However, after reading state law, I wonder if that is incorrect for felons who have been sentenced to more than a year.  See 41-8-106 (a) and (g) (1) below.

According to the inmate numbers provided by Jail Administrator Captain John Adams, the Blount County Adult Detention Facility averaged 174 TDOC (state) sentenced felons with a year or more remaining on their sentence.  If you couple that with the federal inmates, which are discretionary, the jail would not be overcrowded, according to recent inmate totals.

On March 31st, The Daily Times reported that the total number of inmates in the local jail on March 30th was 517 including 76 federal inmates and 142 Tennessee Department of Corrections inmates sentenced and awaiting transfer to a state facility.  If the federal and state inmates were removed from the jail, the inmate total would have been 299, which is well below the certified capacity of 350 beds and below the 90% rate that some consider the optimal standard of 315 beds filled.

Are we required to keep these state felons with a sentence of more than a year?  Read below and see what you think.

From a May 27th email:

“Commissioner Monroe,  In the last year (May 28,2015 to May 27, 2016) our State sentenced inmates break down in the following way:

TDOC – Convicted felons awaiting space in the prison system with at least 1 year left to serve.

Average Daily Count – 174        Highest Daily Count – 193         Lowest Daily Count – 122

TDOC (Local) – Convicted inmates with less than 1 year to serve. May be felon or misdemeanor. These inmates serve their time here.

Average Daily Count – 85          Highest Daily Count – 104         Lowest Daily Count – 40   

I hope this helps.    Capt. Adams”

—–Original Message—–
From: “Randy Vineyard” <rvineyard@blounttn.org>
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2016 2:19pm
To: tona@breezeair.net
Cc: “Jeff French” <jfrench@bcso.com>, “Jimbo Berrong” <jberrong@bcso.com>, “Ed Mitchell” <emitchell@blounttn.org>
Subject: RE: 46915 CONTRACTED PRISONER BOARD

Commissioner,

Blount County has no contract with the State on inmates. The State pays us $37/day/inmate as is the case with most counties.

There may be different arrangements between the State and privately managed detention facilities.

If you have further questions about this matter those may be better addressed by the BCSO.

Thanks

Randy

Randy Vineyard, IOM

Blount County Finance Director

341 Court Street

Maryville, TN 37804

865-273-5719 (office)

rvineyard@blounttn.org

The information in this email and any attachment is confidential and may be legally privileged.  If you are not the intended recipient, please destroy this message, delete any copies held on your system, and notify the sender immediately.  You should not retain, copy, or use this email for any purpose, nor disclose all or any part of its content to any other person.

From: tona@breezeair.net
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2016 2:00 AM
To: Randy Vineyard
Subject: 46915 CONTRACTED PRISONER BOARD

Dear Finance Director Vineyard,

The line item for revenue for state inmates/prisoners is 46915.  It is identified as “contracted prisoner board”.  Does Blount County have a contract with the state for housing inmates/prisoners?  Or does the county receive a daily per diem instead?

Thanks,

Tona

41-8-106.  Housing state prisoners — Contracting — Reimbursement of costs — Debt service. 

(a) No county shall be required to house convicted felons sentenced to more than one (1) year of continuous confinement unless the county, through the authority of its county legislative body, has chosen to contract with the department of correction for the purpose of housing certain felons. The department shall promulgate rules for requirements and procedures for contracting.

(b) Counties may contract, in writing, with the state or with other counties for responsibility of correctional populations.

(c)  (1) Counties shall be reimbursed for housing convicted felons pursuant to the general appropriations act and according to rules and regulations for determining reasonable allowable costs as promulgated by the department, in consultation with the comptroller of the treasury. The department is authorized to include capital costs within the meaning of reasonable allowable costs. Capital costs may include, but are not limited to, debt service.

   (2) The commissioner is authorized, without promulgation of rules and regulations, to agree to reimburse a county for debt service on debt issued by the county in constructing correctional facilities for the purpose of housing inmates sentenced to the county under the authority of a contract entered into under subsection (a). In addition to principal, interest and redemption premiums, debt service may include other necessary items or costs reasonably related to the issuance of such county debt. Upon entering an agreement, the department is authorized to reimburse the county for one hundred percent (100%) of debt service, regardless of whether the county is actually housing inmates under a contract, and until a contract is terminated. The commissioner may not, following execution of any such agreement, amend existing rules and regulations or promulgate new rules and regulations that will impair the state’s obligation to reimburse debt service as provided in an agreement. Any obligation for the reimbursement of debt service shall be a contractual obligation of the state.

(d) It is the intent of the state that the holders of debt issued by a county for which the department has agreed to reimburse debt service pursuant to an agreement under this section may rely on, and benefit from, this section and of any obligation by the department and the state to reimburse the county for debt service contained in any agreement, and the state pledges to and agrees with any holders that the state will not amend this section, or limit or alter the obligation of the department and the state to reimburse debt service under any agreement, in any way that would impair the rights and remedies of any holders, or of the county, with respect to reimbursement. This subsection (d) shall not affect the right of the commissioner to terminate any agreement entered into under this section pursuant to the terms set forth in any agreements.

(e) The subsidies paid to counties pursuant to this chapter shall be the only compensation from the state to which counties are entitled for housing state prisoners and shall be in lieu of the fees allowed in § 8-26-106 or any other section.

(f) The department is further authorized to provide additional subsidies to counties for the purpose of community and other diversion programs for pretrial detainees, misdemeanants or convicted felons subject to available appropriations and in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the department.

(g)  (1) The department shall take into its custody all convicted felons from any county that had not contracted with the state as authorized by subsection (b). The department shall not be required to take actual physical custody of any of the felons until fourteen (14) days after the department has received all certified sentencing documents from the clerk of the sentencing court.

   (2) The commissioner is authorized to compensate any county that has not contracted with the state as authorized by subsection (b) for that county’s reasonable, allowable cost of housing felons. The rate of compensation to these counties shall be determined by and is subject to the level of funding authorized in the appropriations bill; however, the commissioner shall not compensate any county that fails or refuses to promptly transfer actual physical custody of an inmate to the department after being requested by the department, in writing, to do so for each day or portion of a day that the county fails to transfer the inmate. The written notice shall include the date it intends to take custody of the inmate for transfer to the department. The notice shall be given as soon as practicable before the transfer date. By June 15, 2005, the department shall notify each sheriff of the provisions of this subdivision (g)(2) and the consequences for failing to comply with it.

(h) In the event that a county has been reimbursed pursuant to this section for housing convicted felons for a continuous period of three (3) or more fiscal years and has received the maximum amount allowed per prisoner per day as reasonable allowable costs during this period, then the county shall thereafter be presumed to be entitled to the full maximum amount allocated per prisoner per day as reimbursement of reasonable allowable costs for housing such prisoners and will not be required to provide documentation to the department regarding costs incurred beyond information necessary to determine the number of prisoner days for which the county is entitled to reimbursement.

HISTORY: Acts 1981, ch. 491, § 6; T.C.A., § 41-10-106; Acts 1984, ch. 896, § 3; 1985 (1st Ex. Sess.), ch. 5, §§ 46, 53; 1986, ch. 744, § 26; 1988, ch. 869, § 1; 1989, ch. 462, § 1; 1991, ch. 374, §§ 4, 5, 7; 2003, ch. 355, § 58; 2005, ch. 174, § 3; 2011, ch. 229, § 1.