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Friday, February 10, 2017

Cocke County Corrections Partnership
Members of the Cocke County Corrections Partnership were joined Thursday evening by local attorneys, court representatives, state corrections representatives and concerned members of the community, in a workshop aimed at progressing work toward a new jail. The Corrections committee agreed with Chair Robert Green that three of the Cocke County Legislative Body(CLB) committees, should be involved in the planning for a new jail or justice center. The Finance Committee will be tasked with exploring financing options and revenue sources; Public Safety will work to educate the community with regard to the liabilities the county faces and the ramifications if progress is not made; General Committee will identify potential sites, and pinpoint the short and long tern needs of the new facility and the Partnership committee will continue to work with the stakeholders to insure that there is "measurable progress" toward a new facility. Commissioner Jimmy Lindsey argued there will be no new facility until the needed funding is in place. "We aren't going to build a jail till we know where we are getting the financing.If we don't have the money there's no way we will build one. You are a long way down the road from a judge telling us we have to build one. Something is going to have to occur in the jail, and someone will bring a lawsuit before a federal judge gets involved. It will be hard to get a tax increase through this CLB," argued Lindsey. The Commissioner has long argued for a wheel tax to fund a new facility. In response, Green said it is the responsibility of the CLB to educate the community regarding the ramifications if progress toward solving the jail overcrowding is not made. And Commissioner Terry Dawson argued that a part of the education process could be meetings in every community in the county. Sheriff Armando Fontes reported that overcrowding in the jail has resulted in 27 fights in the facility, in the past 11 days. And the resulting medical costs have put the jail's medical budget in the red by $81,000. In addition there are concerns regarding appropriate meeting areas for inmates and attorneys that will be safe. As an alternative, the sheriff suggested adding a 900 square foot building onto the jail, to provide a medical treatment room, a meeting room for attorneys and an isolation room for unruly inmates. Fontes said the addition might be appropriate for housing juvenile offenders after a new jail is built for adult inmates. Attorney Roger Smith again stressed the need for progress in the construction of a new facility. Smith related an experience he had when a federal judge handed down an order that all inmates of a jail be removed before nightfall, after finding the facility did not meet standards. The attorney argued that a new jail could pay for itself if it was built to federal standards and the used to house federal prisoners. Smith said there are federal grants available for such a jail as well as the needed training of personnel. Members of the committee agreed to begin meeting in the Chancery Court courtroom at 6 pm on the first Thursday of each month to continue discussions toward a new facility.


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Friday, May 26, 2017

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    Monday, May 22, 2017

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