Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Eric Watson made his first public appearance since the Bradley County Grand Jury indicted him. Watson was at a ribbon-cutting for the new Bradley County Inmate Workhouse.

Sheriff Watson wouldn't talk to Channel 3 about the allegations against him. He said it was inappropriate due to the investigation and his pending first court appearance. The sheriff agreed to an on camera interview about the new inmate workhouse facility.

The workhouse will allow inmates to work while incarcerated; along with alleviating overcrowding at the jail. The new facility will put low-security inmates to work.

“Minor violators like child support, maybe some DUI, minor violations, first and second time offenses. No felons will be eligible under this program,” said Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson.

The Brian K. Smith Workhouse will start accepting inmates later this week.

“It does cost $28 a day that they have to pay back to the county," Sheriff Watson said. "Basically, the building pays for itself through the fee that the inmate has to pay.”

It is named in honor of Chief Deputy Brian Smith, and his commitment to Bradley County.

“I am humbled by it," Chief Smith said. "I appreciate the Bradley County Commission voting to name the workhouse after me.”

It will house 128 inmates, allowing more space at the current overcrowded jail. The work-release program will serve as a bridge between life in prison and life in the community.

“With this workhouse program, they will still be able to pay their child support to the other side, for example mom or dad, as well as making a living, and serving jail time here in our facility,” said Watson.

The inmates will be outside the jail for 12 hours doing different jobs throughout the county, including roadwork, maintenance, and food services.

“I hope it helps the citizens of Bradley County not just the offenders but the community as a whole,” said Smith.

It is up to a judge to approve the inmates for the workhouse. As of now, 30 have signed up. Inmates will be allowed inside the facility starting this Sunday.

A grand jury indicted Sheriff Eric Watson last Friday.

The sheriff is also a licensed auto salesman. He was indicted on six counts that include altering and forging vehicle titles and plates.

Watson's attorney, Jim Logan, said Watson is not guilty and the allegations do not include any county vehicles.