- Special Sections
- Public Notices
BY DAMON LAWRENCE
The clock is ticking for the Roane County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Jack Stockton said a state fire marshal has given them 30 days to reduce the inmate population at the county jail. Four days have already gone past, so the sheriff's office has just under four weeks to comply or face possible sanctions. Those could include having to shut down the entire jail.
Stockton said the inmate population at the jail is between 100 to 105 on average. On holidays and weekends those numbers can rise to around 130. Stockton said the fire marshal wants the inmate population down to about 65.
“That's almost an impossible task,” Stockton said.
Stockton said he plans to call other sheriffs around the state to see if they have room to take some prisoners. He could have trouble finding takers. Several Roane County prisoners, such as accused killers Leon and Rocky Houston, are already being held in other counties.
“I don't know what I'm going to do with 40 inmates,” Stockton said. “That's a lot of people to move to another facility. Getting someone to accept 10 at each one of the places we've already got inmates is probably going to be a difficult task.”
The order to reduce the population could help some inmates receive a get-out-of-jail-free card. Stockton said one of the options he may have to consider is consulting with the district attorney general to see if there's a way to shorten some sentences or suspend jail time for nonviolent offenders.
“I don't know of any other options,” Stockton said.
According to Stockton, the fire marshal also wants the county to install an “integrated fire system” at the jail. They were given six months to do that, he said.
“I'd say it's going to cost at least $5,000 to $10,000 — somewhere in that range — to integrate a fire system that will satisfy the fire marshal,” Stockton said.
The mandate from the state could put the county in a financial dilemma. County Executive Mike Farmer said recently that the Tennessee Corrections Institute has recommended the jail be decertified for the second consecutive year.
County commissioners could be hesitant to put money into the facility when there's already around $10 million committed to the construction of the new jail. Work started on the new facility this past summer and the entire project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2009.
For more on this story, read Friday's edition of the Roane County News.