The paper had a decent article on the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) meeting last night. What was missing from the story are comments from the citizens.
Shirley Rupert did a lot of research prior to the meeting and spoke. Her comments are posted here.
TN Dept of Corrections: 147
Sentenced Felon: 100
SENTENCED MISDEMEANOR: 61
PRETRIAL FELON : 123
PRETRIAL MISDEMEANOR: 69
Looking at these numbers and doing some simple math will show what is causing the overcrowding.
IF we eliminate the TN Dept. of Corrections (147) and the Federal (68) inmates, there will be no crowding. These inmates are a drain on our local economy. Although, Blount County is reimbursed to facilitate them, it is not enough to cover the costs completely.
The number of citizens that are our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers awaiting trail is also a reason for concern. Having 192 citizens waiting to be assigned an attorney and/or a date with the judge is not acceptable. In this economy, one week from work will result in loosing a job, housing, vehicle, and when extended, even their family. These inmates are sleeping on floors without bedding, not receiving medical attention and/or being subjected to cruel behaviors. All of this is prior to being convicted of any crime!
Another issue for concern is the staff at the Justice Center. Even though, we house 568 inmates, we only staff enough employees for the 350 limit. These employees are expected to care and manage an excessive number of inmates for the same pay. This is a stressful situation for many of or neighbors that work for the Justice Center, resulting in high rate of job changes.
Upon release, the inmates receive an invoice for the expenses incurred by the County and will be assigned a Probation Officer. They must meet with the Officer once a month and pay a fee for said Officer, along with reimbursing the county for their court costs and stay in the facility. If, for any reason, they miss an appointment, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Many of us work long hours just to maintain our households. A monthly appointment requires leaving work, obtaining funds and meeting with an Officer that has nothing to offer, other than encouragement to make your next appointment.
According to a Warrant Study from 2011, over 7,500 Warrants were issued that year. Of those, 5,000 were violations to the court! These include: Failure to Appear, Contempt, and/or Violation of Probation. More emphasis is being put on keeping our citizens in the system than keeping our county safe. The majority of the inmates are in jail because they were unable to either pay fines, or obtain a attorney.
I appreciate the fact that our county is safe and one of the most sought after places to live. I highly doubt that bringing in additional Federal and State Inmates will add to our charm. In fact, I would anticipate that a Federal or State Penitentiary would definitely be a blemish to our town.
*Note: Inmates without beds are given a sled with a mattress unless the number of inmates exceeds the number of sleds available.