By MIKE WEST/ Courier Editor
Officials from the Tenn-essee Corrections Institute are giving authorities 60 days to collect information about overcrowding at the Cannon County Jail.
"I don't want to build jails. I want to build schools," said Bob Bass, detention facilities specialist with the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI). But building new jails or expanding existing ones is often the only option.
The facility often has 60 inmates in a jail that was built in 1973 for a maximum of 43 inmates. TCI is looking into that problem as part of a plan of action Cannon County agreed to in 2012. The county entered into TCI's County Corrections Partnership Initiative as a result.
This initiative is designed to help the county avoid lawsuits for constitutional violations.
TCI is required to establish minimum standards for adult local jails, lock-ups, workhouses and detention facilities in Tennessee. TCI also provides technical assistance and conducts research in relation to requests from local correctional detention facilities, the Tennessee legislature and other state agencies.
Bass met with Sheriff Darrell Young, Woodbury Police Chief Kevin Mooneyham and the members of the County Commission's Law Enforcement Committee Wednesday night (Feb. 6) at the Courthouse. Miller Meadows, detention facilities specialist, also met with local officials.
"Your jail staff is really doing a good job," Bass said. "But let's remember the judge is mandated to put people in jail."
And the numbers of inmates at Cannon County Jail is continuing to grow chiefly due the problem posed by methamphetamine.
Sheriff Young said 70 percent of the local inmates are in jail on drug offenses or related issues like burglary.
"Can we also get a figure on who is in the jail and how many of them are drug-related," asked Bass.
Bass also asked local officials to consider security issues at the Cannon County Courthouse.
"The No. 1 choice of many counties is to establish a criminal justice center" at their jail, he said. In that situation, security is much tighter, transportation costs are less as is employee costs.
"You need to gather some data on this courthouse," Bass said. "You (county officials) are looking at the trees. We (TCI) come in and see the forest."
TCI officials also asked county officials about outreach programs and community service at the jail.
"You are ahead of the curve because you have room to expand," Bass said.
But much of that property at the jail is in the flood plain, pointed out County Commissioner James Russell Reed.