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Friday, September 08, 2017

Cocke County Jail is de-certified
The Cocke County Corrections Partnership met in workshop Thursday evening because of the lack of a quorum. Those in attendance heard from Mayor Crystal Ottinger and Sheriff Armando Fontes about their recent appearance before the Tennessee Corrections Institute(TCI)in Nashville. An initial jail inspection in June found severe overcrowding as well as a number of technical violations, but a second inspection on August 15 resulted in fewer findings. "We worked very hard at the meeting asking them to approve another plan of action to keep the jail certified but they turned us down. We explained that we have been having meetings to try to move ahead, but they pointed out that we usually don't have enough members for an adequate meeting. With de-certification, if we hold any state inmates, the entire cost falls back on us" The sheriff also warned the group that the liability of the county could increase with a lack of certification and that TCI will act as a witness against the county in any litigation filing. The state will no longer pay the county just over $30 daily for each state inmate that is housed, or reimburse their medical costs. Efforts are under way to find other housing in other jails however most other facilities also are full. And then when an inmate has a court hearing he or she must be transported back to the local court. The sheriff said if the commission had moved ahead, showing progress toward a jail, there likely would not have been a de-certification. Mayor Ottinger said the review committee indicated that the jail was not re-certified because the committee "believes it is unsafe for inmates and staff." Jail Administrator Bob Hogan said on Thursday there were 147 inmates incarcerated and only seven were state inmates. Sheriff Fontes said using GPS monitors would help with jail overcrowding but would not eliminate it. He pointed out that violent offenders, sex offenders and those who continue to break the law, are not eligible for GPS monitoring. The sheriff also reported that medical expenses in the jail continue to mount, with a current total cost of $147,000 since July 1. Efforts are continuing to find alternatives to keeping medical personnel on staff.

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