FIRST ON 3: Jail officials must come up with plan of action to keep certification
Hamilton County Jail officials will have to travel to Nashville next month in hopes of coming up with an updated plan of action after failing to meet minimum state standards during a re-inspection due to overcrowding.
UPDATE: Hamilton County Jail officials will have to travel to Nashville next month in hopes of coming up with an updated plan of action after failing to meet minimum state standards during a re-inspection due to overcrowding.
The Board of Control meeting is scheduled to take place Dec. 2 at the Tennessee Corrections Institute boardroom after inspectors found the jail was overcrowded and that staffing levels were insufficient, according to a re-inspection report issued this month.
“Jail average daily populations for the past three months consistently exceeded certified capacity. Staffing levels are low and security for staff and inmates could be compromised,” the report states.
Officials with Hamilton County hired an outside agency to conduct a feasibility study for the jail. The results are expected to be shared next month. The jail will remain certified with an approved plan of action.
Silverdale Detention Facility, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, passed a re-inspection this month.
“All deficiencies from the initial inspection … have been corrected,” a state inspector wrote.
The Hamilton County Jail and Silverdale Correctional Facility are making quick fixes after the state found multiple deficiencies in its annual inspections.
The Tennessee Corrections Institute inspected both jails earlier in September and informed County Mayor Jim Coppinger and jail officials of the deficiencies.
The state found the county jail is so overcrowded that shower stalls in the booking area are being used to hold inmates.
Sheriff Jim Hammond said corrections officers will sometimes put violent or unruly offenders in the shower cells to separate them during booking.
"If they're out of control, you'll put them in there," Hammond said. "Most of the time, its used for what its intended: give them a shower before you move them to the cell."
The inspection also notes insufficient staffing levels and recommends the county find the funds to hire more corrections officers. Additionally, there are security concerns at the downtown jail that include cleaning supplies not being inventoried.
"The majority of these things they challenge us on have to do with the fact that we don't have enough manpower and they continue to repeat that there's not enough staff to deal with the amount of inmates you have," he said. "Their procedure is to show up every so often, to look and see if these are severe deficiencies or if these are kinda like the restaurant reports where you need to clean this better, need to do this better."
CCA Silverdale, also known as the Hamilton County Workhouse, is not overcrowded but still must fix some deficiencies to pass re-inspection.
The state inspector said Silverdale's kitchen needs a thorough cleaning and/or enhanced control for pests. The facility was also cited for not having a procedure to keep inventory of tools and supplies.
The state will re-inspect both jails in early November to determine if the deficiencies have been corrected. Hammond said the county jail is old and outdated but said there's no chance his jail will be decertified this year.
Mayor Coppinger said in June the county is hiring a consultant to consider the privatization of all county jails. That would mean Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) could possibly operate all the county's jails, not just Silverdale.
"I think we'll get some answers and then we'll look at what the taxpayers are willing to support," he said. "I understand the angst the commission has because you're looking at 50, 60, 70 million dollar expenditure, the cost of a school. Everybody would much rather build schools than jails. I understand that."
Hammond expects that study to be complete in the next 2-3 months.