A group of local officials asked state jail management officials Tuesday night (Jan. 21) to launch a study on ways to improve the Cannon County Jail.
Jim Hart, a County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) jail management expert, agreed to conduct the study, catching some county officials off guard due to the “very informal” nature of the meeting.
Hart was one of three state corrections officials at the informal meeting. Also attending were Bob Bass, Tennessee Corrections Institute program coordinator, and Lance Howell, deputy director of TCI.
Attending from Cannon County were Sheriff’s Department personnel including Sheriff Darrell Young and Jail Administrator Ed Brown, County Executive Mike Gannon, County Commissioners Russell Reed, Jim Bush, Todd Hollingsworth, Clint Higgins, Chuck Holt and Jim Jones, and Woodbury City Councilman Adam Melton.
TCI’s Bass urged county officials to “meet monthly, talk strategies and come up with a plan for the future.”
The Cannon County Jail is chronically overcrowded, often with inmates who are waiting for trial.
On Oct. 3, TCI looked at the jail population, which was 73 inmates, Bass said. “That’s 30 over” the approved population of 43.
Bass said 89 percent of the inmates were repeat offenders.
When the jail was inspected again Tuesday, the total of prisoners was 63, which breaks down to 48 male, 15 female and 10 state prisoners.
“One thing that stands out for you is the extended stay for prisoners in a pre-trial status. Your totals are a little eschewed,” Hart said.
Deputy Director Howell urged the formation of a committee to specifically target overcrowding at the jail.
"If you don't do it that's when the problems arise," Howell said.
The state officials suggested expansion of the county's law enforcement committee.
"You need representatives from the courts, the sheriff's staff, county commissioners," Hart said.
Once formed that committee needs to closely examine all aspects of criminal justice in Cannon County, he said.
"I call it turning over every rock," Hart said.
Howell told the local officials one area they need to strongly consider are the prisoners being held prior to their trial.
If you take half of your pre-trial defendants, you could be below the recommended jail capacity, he said.