TCI Board of Control member: Blount County could use a nice 100,000 person jail

After the September 2, 2015 Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control (TCIBC) minutes revealed that the Mayor had set aside $1 million without telling the public, the September 12, 2012 minutes reveal another alarming statement.  On page 3 of the TCIBC minutes, board member and Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes said:

“Unfortunately, they (Sheriff and staff?) don’t have a commission that will build them a nice 100,000 person jail but they could use it.”

A nice 100,000 person jail?  Blount County can use a facility that large?  Are some wanting to turn the peaceful side of the Smoky Mountains into the next Brushy Mountain Penitentiary?

With rhetoric like this, I think it is time for us to question the quality of people serving on the Board of Control and look at reforming its membership.  Have some become numb to the incarceration process and the huge costs associated with it?  Only one member of the TCIBC does not work in the criminal justice system and that member is a Mayor.

Note: The first page of the 2012 TCIBC minutes is giving an error message but pages 2-3 should open for viewing purposes.

Wars and Rumors of War v1.0

by Horatio Bunce

Today the Dept. of Homeland Security claimed: “During that time period immigration officials were not allowed to use or review social media as part of the screening process,” John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary at DHS for intelligence and analysis. Cohen is now a national security consultant for ABC News.

This to explain why “nobody noticed” the alleged San Bernadino shooter Tashfeen Malik’s “radicalization” in social media posts prior to being granted a visa to enter the country.

And don’t miss this howler:

“A former senior counterterrorism official told the network that US officials “felt looking at public postings” of foreign US visa applicants “was an invasion of their privacy.”

This from the same federal government that says your cell phone conversations (which they record and store) and email communications (which they copy and store) have no expectation of privacy…

Apparently the drones at DHS forgot all about that whole “see something, say something” campaign .

First, let me remind you of the “bi-partisan” Smith Mundt Modernization Act amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which “modernized” our government’s propaganda “policy” in effect post WWII now openly admitting we are paying taxes to lie to ourselves – in various new media forms:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the `Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012′.

SEC. 2. DISSEMINATION ABROAD OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNITED STATES.

    (a) United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948- Section 501 of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1461) is amended to read as follows:

GENERAL AUTHORIZATION

      Sec. 501. (a) The Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of Governors are authorized to use funds appropriated or otherwise made available for public diplomacy information programs to provide for the preparation, dissemination, and use of information intended for foreign audiences abroad about the United States, its people, and its policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures,

the Internet, and other information media, including social media,

    and through information centers, instructors, and other direct or indirect means of communication.”

Now compare and contrast this “policy” with how many “ISIS” facebook, twitter posts and youtube videos you have been subjected to in the “news”, despite the inability to “find”, “arrest”, “contain”, “bomb” or otherwise “fight” said enemy “ISIS” – or for that matter shut down their American-owned social media accounts. Especially when we are told over and over how “ISIS” has “mastered social media” to “recruit” young Americans.  Then consider the other social media terrorist “news” stories of late:

More Young Americans arrested for joining ISIS

Americans Joining ISIS: Arrests Suggest Young Muslims Lured By Social Media

Air Force veteran pleads not guilty to terror-related charges

ISIS: Pennsylvania Woman Allegedly Tried to Join Group, Officials Say

California Student Arrested Attempting To Travel To Syria To Join ISIS Active On Social Media Sites Including Facebook, YouTube, Ask.fm, And Instagram

ISIS making connections via social media

Colorado girls’ apparent bid to join ISIS renews terror recruiting fears

From MN suburbs, they set out to join ISIS

American Extremist Reveals His Quest to Join ISIS

Seems to me the feds are awfully efficient at tracking down people perceived to be “terrorist threats” based on a couple of social media posts when they want to be.

November 2015 Commission Report

Agenda Meeting
In October of 2013, the Commission voted to spend over $94,000 to conduct a study on the jail overcrowding.  The Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) Criminal Justice System Assessment Report (commonly called jail study) was issued May 31, 2014.  The County Commission has yet to hear from the jail consultant because the Mayor chose to obstruct progress by having his attorney write a letter to the commission asking us to not talk about the report because the county might sue and discussion could damage the County’s legal position.  This was just a tactic to shut down discussion on the report.  Over 7 months later, there is no lawsuit.

I filed a resolution to have a hearing on the jail study.  The Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) unanimously recommended that the Commission hear from the Jail consultant at it’s January meeting.  Commissioner Rick Carver said that he didn’t understand my resolution since it didn’t come from the BCCP.  He should have understood it because he was the one who seconded my motion at the January BCCP meeting to recommend having a hearing on the study.

The facts were inconvenient for Rick Carver and the rest of the water boys for the Sheriff.  They made excuse after excuse about not hearing the findings and conclusions of the taxpayer funded study.  The matter was again postponed to the January meeting.  If these commissioners put as much time and effort into solving problems as they have in avoiding the problems we would see the kind of criminal justice reform needed for the betterment of society.

Commission Meeting
The Commission approved purchasing a new software system for the Sheriff’s Office that will allow deputies to be more mobile, improve record keeping and help with inmate classification in the jail.  The expenditure was mostly funded by court costs for technology.

For the second month in a row Accounting and Budgeting either wouldn’t answer or didn’t know the answer to my questions regarding budget amendments and the HR Director failed to provide requested information regarding the Evergreen Employee Compensation and Classification Study.  After the Evergreen Study was adopted as the pay scale for the General County, excluding the Highway Department, employees had the opportunity to go through an appeals process if they weren’t happy with their classification and/or pay.  I submitted questions regarding the outcome of this process to the HR Director in early September but she failed to answer my questions.

A complicated budget transfer request was in the Commission packet to appropriate amounts needed to satisfy the appeals process.  The figures are available on page 25 of Commission packet.  There were a couple of problems with this.

First, I inquired how it was possible that the re-appropriates were exactly zero.  If you have an appeals process, it seems highly unlikely that the appeals process will result in the changes to pay for employees being exactly zero.  The final results showed that the Commission approved $36,917.75 more for wages than was needed.  If the appeals process shows that the commission over budgeted by this amount, then why wasn’t this item a budget decrease instead of a transfer that resulted in neither an increase or decrease to the budget?  The answer I was given did not sufficiently explain this.  The HR Director did not attend the Agenda Committee meeting or the Commission meeting to answer questions.

Additionally, I inquired why re-appropriations that we were asked to vote on did not match the Change/Difference column figures resulting from the appeals process.  For example, the appeals lead to salary increases of $36,205.63 in the Circuit Court Clerk’s budget, but $60,366 for salaries was transferred to this Office. No sufficient answer was given for this either.

With no clear answers, from the Finance Department or HR Director, this budget transfer didn’t pass the common sense test to me.  Only Commissioners Karen Miller and I voted no.

Recycling Committee
The Ad Hoc Committee to Study Recycling expired this month without taking any action except approving a request for an extension of time from the County Commission.  Discussion was short because some people didn’t make it to the meeting.

Blount County Corrections Partnership
Sheriff James Berrong and Chief Deputy Jeff French resorted to petty attacks against me.  Commissioner Jamie Daly asked the men to put egos aside and be adults but French attacked me again after her request.

Five months since last meeting
At the Agenda meeting Commissioner Jamie Daly asked the BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick how many times the BCCP had met this fiscal year.  He didn’t give a number, because he knew the answer was zero.  The last meeting occurred in June which was the last fiscal year.

The only two agenda items at the June meeting were the TCI presentation and the setting of the next meeting.  After the TCI presentation the Chairman declared that he would set a meeting date.  He drug his feet for four months before setting a meeting date.  On the day of the meeting the members of the BCCP received an email from the Commission Secretary saying that the Chairman wanted to know if we would be attending the meeting.  Chairman Headrick was probably looking for a reason to cancel the meeting as he has done multiple times in the past.

At the April meeting, I asked that our next meeting after the TCI presentation include discussion of housing federal inmates.  When the November meeting public notice was issued, it excluded this agenda item.  I had to call the Commission Secretary to get it added to the public notice.  A new public notice had to be reissued the next day.  At the meeting the Chairman said he had nothing to hide but there are too many things like this to dismiss as innocuous.

Federal Inmates
The County Commission has never approved the contract to house federal inmates.  The Sheriff acted unilaterally when he signed the agreement.  The are many risks associated with housing federal inmates but the matter hasn’t been voted on by the Commission or signed by the Mayor.

For many years, the Sheriff’s Office has promoted the notion that the County makes money keeping federal inmates.  The ILPP report, that the establishment has been avoiding public discussion on, says on page 26, “The only way for the jail to make any money from Federal or State per diems is to crowd it.”

On page 42 the report says:

“ILPP believes that the County is subsidizing the Federal Detention contract and mistakenly believes the County profits from the federal contract. The perceived profits are at expense of staff and inmate conditions. Understaffing and overcrowding results in a distorted view of the profit margin. Providing adequate housing accommodations and sufficient staffing compared to the inmate population will result in substantial loss of County funds. When building cost and staff costs are included, the Federal contract is insufficient to cover real costs.”

The ILPP report recommends that the Sheriff’s Office hire a firm to renegotiate the federal per diem rate.  The Sheriff’s Office has acted on this recommendation and the rates are being renegotiated.  That renegotiation itself suggests that current per diem rate is insufficient to fully cover operational costs of housing federal inmates.

Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Office billed the private sector $35 an hour for security services provided for the recent Luke Bryant concert.  The federal government is billed $14 an hour for transportation services for federal inmates.  The Sheriff told me that I was playing games when I asked him why this rate was less than half the private sector rate.  He said that the concert pay was overtime but Chief French acknowledges that deputies could be on overtime pay when transporting federal prisoners.  Even if the deputies aren’t on overtime, $14 an hour doesn’t cover the costs associated with transporting these inmates.

Commissioners Tom Stinnett and Rick Carver have both said that the ILPP consultant called Washington DC and caused the US Marshalls Service to remove some of the federal inmates from the jail.  I asked the Sheriff if federal inmates had been removed, why the were removed and how many.  He said that either I or the ILPP consultant had called Washington DC and implied that one of us had caused it.  He asked me if I had called.

After hearing the two Commissioners allege that the federal inmate reduction was due to the jail consultant, I placed a call the US Marshalls Service to see if they would tell me why the number of inmates was reduced.  The called was placed near the Thanksgiving holiday so I wasn’t able to speak with anyone who could answer that question.

I asked the Sheriff if he was given a reason why the US Marshalls Service removed the federal prisoners.  He said that he was given a reason.  When I asked what that reason was, he said that it was between him and the US Marshalls Service.

The US Marshall’s Service returned my call after the BCCP meeting and told me that 36 inmates were removed from the jail but refused to tell me why they were removed saying that the contract was between them and the Sheriff’s Office.

The revenue projection for this fiscal year already projected keeping 30% less federal inmates than the prior year.  The budget was put together several months before the US Marshalls Service removed the federal inmates.  When you are told that we are losing revenue because some of the federal prisoners were removed, keep in mind that the budget only projects an average of 52 inmates a day while there are over 80 inmates after the US Marshalls Service removed the 36 inmates.

Information is not provided
The BCCP is not given copies of the TCI jail inspection reports.  The BCCP is not given a copies of the Plan of Action when updated.  The BCCP is not given any information from the Probation Department.  The BCCP is not given any information from the Program Director of Recovery Court (formerly called Drug Court).  The BCCP is not given any information from the District Attorney’s Office.  The BCCP is not given any information from the Public Defender’s Office.  The BCCP has been not given a copy of the Sheriff’s Office agreement with the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee since I’ve been on the BCCP.  If a member wants this information, they have to request it.

BCCP is not hearing from many parts (“stakeholders”) of the criminal justice system
Since I’ve been a member of the BCCP, we have not heard from the citizens serving on the Jail Inspection Committee, Probation Department, DA’s Office or the Public Defenders Office.  What we have heard regarding the Recovery Court has come from Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington.  When I asked that the BCCP be provide with data regarding how many people in the court system would be eligible for Recovery Court programs so that we could look at the possible need to expand it, she was quick to tell me that she didn’t have time to provide that data.  My request wasn’t for her specifically to provide the information but rather for the Program Director or her staff to provide the data.  Harrington encouraged a request for increased funding which I supported on the condition that we be provided data about Recovery Court and the possible need to expand it.  Five months after the budget increase, the BCCP has been given no data from Recovery Court.

We can do better
The BCCP has been dysfunctional and unproductive.  The problem lies squarely on the shoulders of Chairman Jeff Headrick. He is more interested in catering to the establishment than serving the community.

A Chairman who wanted to achieve progress wouldn’t cancel meetings because one or two people, who aren’t voting members, aren’t going to attend.  A Chairman who wanted progress wouldn’t allow five months to pass between meetings.  A Chairman who wanted to achieve progress wouldn’t parrot a statement like, do you want to meet just to meet (yes he said that) knowing that there are many topics that have never been discussed by the BCCP.  A Chairman who wanted progress would work diligently to make sure that the BCCP was getting all the criminal justice system information available.  A Chairman who wanted progress would be inviting each of the Offices/Departments involved in the criminal justice system to come speak to the BCCP.

The BCCP should be meeting monthly and be given either monthly or quarterly reports from each component of the criminal justice system.  Each month one or more of person involved in the system should be speaking to us about what they are doing and what they need to be doing their job better.  These are the requests that I would have been making had the Chairman not hindered the BCCP from meeting on a regular basis.

County Technical Advisory Service Jail Management Consultant Jim Hart issued a review on the jail studies, the one that he did and the ILPP study.  He actually recommends meeting with the people involved in many components of the criminal justice system.  It is my hope that the BCCP will take these recommendations seriously.  Regular meetings with all involved is what the BCCP is suppose to be doing in order to make recommendations to reform the criminal justice system.

Role and effectiveness of government
It has been said that I am against the Sheriff and the Sheriff’s employees.  The same is said about the Schools and their employees.  This is ridiculous.

The Schools and budgets under the Sheriff comprise the majority of the budget; therefore, there is usually move to evaluate than with other departments.  The majority of Sheriff’s employees have been polite to me and have answered my questions.  My interaction with school employees has been less because the committees that I serve on don’t have a lot of involvement with the schools.

It is my job to critically evaluate the effectiveness of government and ensure that its role be to assist in the protection of our rights.

The Declaration of Independence says:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Let us never forget that the purpose of government is to secure these rights.  Some in government have lost sight of this role.

Up next
The Commission will not meet in December and I have no meetings scheduled.  Therefore, I hope to utilize the time to offer more in depth discussions on the county debt, jail and criminal justice system.  My November 6th email to the Finance Director with questions regarding the refinancing of nearly $80 million has not been answered yet.

Jail and Criminal Justice System Info

Federal Inmates Agreement between Office of the Federal Detention Trustee and Blount County Sheriff’s Office

Tennessee Corrections Institute Jail Inspection Reports July 2012-June 2015

CTAS 2013 Jail Presentation by Jim Hart

Institute for Law and Policy Planning 2014 Criminal Justice System Assessment

The Summerill Group federal inmate rate renegotiation

2015 Updated Plan of Action

CTAS 2015 Jail Studies Review by Jim Hart

Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control September 12, 2012 minutes see page 3

Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control September 2, 2015 minutes see page 7

Warrant statistics supplied by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office

2011 – Entered 7,245…Served 6,994

2012 – Entered 7,400…Served 7,051

2013 – Entered 6,677…Served 6,838

2014 – Entered 6,134…Served 5,237

2015 – Entered 5,603…Served 5,226 as of November 30th

Local Incentives Agreements

With the goal of more transparency and open discussions on the role of government, BC Public Record is making these local Incentives Agreements available for your information and consideration.  Keep in mind that these ‘deals’ do not include the agreements made with the state.  Double dipping with crony corporate welfare is common.

Knox News reported that the incentives package for Advanced Munitions International (AMI) is $26.6 M but this figure doesn’t include the tax abatement that AMI will receive.  AMI is required to provide 477 jobs paying and average $43,800 in salaries and benefits.

Compare that to Kristine Tallent working at the City of Maryville making $105,608.57 (excluding benefits) or Blount County Commissioner Mike Caylor working at the City of Maryville making $69,424.78 (excluding benefits) or Blount County Commissioner Grady Caskey a teacher working for Blount County Schools making $53,080 (excluding benefits) or Blount County Commissioner Dodd Crowe a teacher working for Blount County Schools making $64,380 (excluding benefits) or Dodd Crowe’s wife Renda making $64,380 (excluding benefits) or Blount County Commissioner Gary Farmer working for Blount County Schools making $68,792 (excluding benefits) or Melissa Bowers wife of Blount County Commissioner Brad Bowers working for Maryville City Schools making $65,302.32 (excluding benefits) or Kristi Yates sister of Blount County Commissioner Brad Bowers working for Blount County Schools making $50,582 (excluding benefits) or City of Maryville Manager Greg McClain making $145,000.27 (excluding benefits) or Patricia Stinnett wife of Blount County Commissioner Tom Stinnett making $71,719.32 (excluding benefits) working for Maryville City Schools or Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell making $123,726 or Blount County Sheriff James Berrong making $117,835 (excluding benefits) or the General Sessions judges making $158,795 (excluding benefits) or Bryan Daniels working for the Blount Partnership whose full salary is unknown but has said that the taxpayers are paying $50,000 of it.

The next time you see these people cutting ribbons and taking credit for giving the farm away, remember that many of them make far more than you do.  But you should be happy that they used your money and took credit for bringing in jobs that pay far less than they make right?

“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”  2 Peter 2:3

 

AMI Incentives Part 1 (odd pages)  AMI Incentives Part 2 (even pages)
Ceramaspeed Incentives
Cirrus Incentives
Denso Incentives
Koide Tennessee Incentives
ProNova Incentives
Surface Igniter Incentives

The licensing effect

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/opinion/sunday/how-salad-can-make-us-fat.html

This article refers to the licensing effect in the last paragraph saying:

“But the only foolproof way to defeat the licensing effect is to hold yourself to a higher standard when you’re making health decisions. Stick to the well-proven basics and tune out the noise of the commercial health-promotion industry, whose ever-optimistic mantra is “It might help … and it can’t hurt.” That’s a nice thought, but it’s almost always an illusion.”

Wonder what driving would be like without government issued drivers licenses (for the ‘privilege’ of course to use the roads that we pay for) that does so much to (not) keep us safe on the roads.  What about the carry permit, or any other government issued license?  Do they give us a false sense of security?

Who Should Pay For the Syrian Refugees?

by Ron Paul   Monday November 23, 2015

Last week the US House dealt a blow to President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland. On a vote of 289-137, including 47 Democrats, the House voted to require the FBI to closely vet any applicant from Syria and to guarantee that none of them pose a threat to the US. Effectively this will shut down the program.

The House legislation was brought to the Floor after last week’s attacks in Paris that left more than 120 people dead, and for which ISIS claimed responsibility. With the year-long US bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, there is a good deal of concern that among those 10,000 to be settled here there might be some who wish to do us harm. Even though it looks as though the Paris attackers were all EU citizens, polling in the US shows record opposition to allowing Syrian refugees entry.

I agree that we must be very careful about who is permitted to enter the United States, but I object to the president’s plan for a very different reason. I think it is a sign of Washington’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy that US citizens are being forced to pay for those fleeing Washington’s foreign policy.

For the past ten years the US government has been planning and executing a regime change operation against the Syrian government. It is this policy that has produced the chaos in Syria, including the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda in the country. After a decade of US destabilization efforts, we are now told that Syria is totally destabilized and we therefore must take in thousands of Syrians fleeing the destabilization that Washington caused.

Has there ever been a more foolish and wrong-headed foreign policy than this?

The American people have been forced to pay untold millions for a ten-year CIA and Pentagon program to undermine and overthrow the Syrian government, and now we are supposed to pay millions more to provide welfare for the refugees Obama created.

Who should pay for the millions fleeing the chaos that Washington helped create? How about the military-industrial complex, which makes a killing promoting killing? How about the Beltway neocon think-tanks that continue to churn out pro-war propaganda while receiving huge grants from defense contractors? How about President Obama’s national security advisors, who push him into one regime change disaster after another? How about Hillary Clinton, who came up with the bright idea that “Assad must go”? How about President Obama himself, a president elected to end wars, but who has ended up starting more wars than his predecessor? It’s time those who start the wars start paying for the disasters they create. Then perhaps we might have some relief from an interventionist foreign policy that is destroying our financial and national security.

If Obama wants to take in refugees from the chaos in Syria, there are probably plenty of vacant rooms in the White House.

Read online: http://bit.ly/1N3bKH3

Tona Monroe’s comments in support of Criminal Justice System Assessment Report hearing

Thank you Mr. Chairman. The situation before us is not uncharted territory. The jail was overcrowded before and the county was forced to build, leaving us with debt that we are still paying on. We should all be able to see where the current situation is headed.

The overcrowding wisely lead the commission and sheriff to commission a study from a national firm who has studied over 400 counties across this country to provide us with options to address our jail and criminal justice system.

The Sheriff has recently started sending us letters telling us that he expects the jail overcrowding to persist. He has been telling us that tensions are increasing. The Sheriff is actually making the case for why the time for us to act is now.

The next step is to hear from the jail consultant. It will cost us nothing further to hear from the consultant. 13 of us were not on the commission when the final report came out. It would behoove us too listen to the findings.

Let the Sheriff tell us what he is seeing in the jail. Let the consultant tell us what his recommendations are. Let everyone be heard. If we continue to ignore the situation then as the Sheriff said in his October 28th letter, “the repercussions could be detrimental to not only the Sheriff’s Office, but to Blount County also”.

Here are some of the situations we could find the county in if we remain inattentive. We could be closed down by the state or the courts. We could be sued and face allegations of our jail being unconstitutional. We could be sued by inmates because of overcrowding conditions in the jail. We could lose control of the jail to inmate riots from the overcrowding. We have a pill problem and some are warning of heroine being a public safety issue. The consultants recommendations may be helpful to our public safety, budget and very fabric of our wonderful community.

Many Counties in Tennessee are in similar situations and are acting while we are not. National media is publishing the stories. We will be next in the national headlines if we don’t get to work now.

I had to go back to 2006 to find a jail report that didn’t show serious overcrowding. A plan of action was issued in 2012. How much more longer can we afford to wait?

The Comptroller’s website lists Blount County’s FY 2014 debt as the 8th highest county debt in the state. It would be a tragedy for us to add to that financial burden when the county has already been down this costly road before. We should be proactive not reactive.

We as the funding body will have to make the tough financial decisions for the jail. It is not a tough financial decision to have open discussion on what we can do to reduce our inmate population and thereby reduce or eliminate the repercussions that the taxpaying people of Blount County will face if we sit back and let the problem continue.

Therefore, I urge you to join me in voting to move forward and have a hearing on the study that we commissioned two years ago and has been out for a year and a half. Thank you.

November 10, 2015 Agenda Committee meeting

Note: The jail has 350 beds.  The March 15, 2007 jail report showed only minor overcrowding of 2 inmates (see page 147) while the rest of the 2007 showed serious overcrowding.  The December 2006 jail inspection report listed 349 inmates (see page 81), which is 1 below capacity, and the last time these reports showed the inmate population being below the bed capacity.