A VIEW from LICK SKILLET: High Sheriff still ignoring Old Curmudgeon

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By Gerald Largen

Gentle reader, as you may recall, we have patiently endeavoured for some time to get the High Sheriff to respond to a few simple questions concerning the management of his, or our, jail. We didn’t realize just how long he has stubbornly resisted giving any response to these inquiries until we looked back in our files. It has, in fact been approximately seven months of silence on his part inasmuch as we first posed these questions in the issue of 25 October, 2013.

We posed these questions because of the claims of jail overcrowding, which we suspected were not warranted by the facts, but which we felt the Sheriff ought to have an opportunity to justify, if there were truly an overcrowding situation. The basis for these questions was our experience with the prior administration and its jail population figures. In case you may have forgotten these questions, we will reprint them in full here, just as they appeared first in the issue of 25 October, and were reprinted in the issue of 15 November, and again on 10 January of this year, as follows:
“Just how is the jail house population calculated? For instance, is everyone who is booked into the jail added to the total jail house population for that day, even though the individual may spend less than an hour in actual incarceration while awaiting bail?

“How many of the individuals booked is there on a warrant, when the law clearly allows mere citations to appear, without incarceration, for many offences?

“How many members of the jail house population are not county prisoners, but instead either state or federal prisoners? How many of the latter are being paid for by the state or the federal governments?
“We would respectfully request that High Sheriff Jack Stockton tell us how many days there have been since the new jail was occupied when a prisoner has had to sleep standing up, or on the floor because there was no bed for him? In his response to this request, we would ask that he identify these bed-less incarceratees, their offences, the court issuing the commitment orders, and how many misdemeanants were occupying beds at that time.”

In addition to these three articles centered on the questions themselves, we have reminded Sheriff Stockton that these questions remain unanswered in the column published on 13 December, 2013, followed up by columns published on 7 February, 2014, and 28 February, 2014.

Since it is plain that there is something so bad about this matter that the Sheriff dares not answer these questions, we have turned our attention temporarily to other matters, however, a new development has caused us to return to them now, rather than later, as we had intended.

This new development was reported in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Monday, 12 May, in an article appearing on page 7A, by-lined Lance Coleman, wherein it was reported that according to the annual report of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, styled “Crime in Tennessee,” the Roane County Sheriff’s Office has failed to fulfill its obligation to provide the information required to be reported to the TBI. This results in the sheriff’s department being classified as “Noncompliant.”

According to TBI spokesman Josh DeVine, staying in noncompliance can cost the agency money.

“While a department is on noncompliance status, they are not eligible to receive any state grant money from the Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice program, including any federal dollars distributed through that program while listed as decertified,” DeVine said.

He also said that warning letters were sent telling of the problem, but it was not resolved.

The old curmudgeon is not sure what his attitude is towards this development.

He probably shouldn’t be upset that he has been ignored if Sheriff Jackie is also ignoring the main state law enforcement agency.

Especially is this so in view of the fact that ignoring the old curmudgeon isn’t going to cost the taxpayers directly (although it could cost them greatly indirectly), while ignoring the TBI, apparently is going to cost directly. We would think that the financial folks in county government would be concerned about this, but maybe they have put their trust in God to take care of this matter for them.

The fact that Sheriff Jackie is ignoring us, and defying the State makes us even more curious than ever as to just why this is.

Editor’s note: We have chosen to delete 173 words of this column in which Largen considers Stockton’s possible motivation. We also changed the headline accordingly.

Turning to a much more pleasant topic: Tomorrow, Saturday, 24 May, is the day for the annual “Gathering by the River” for the South Harriman Schools Alumni and Friends.

Here’s what the reminder card said:

“WHEN: Saturday, May 24, 2014 - 4:00 to 6:30 PM (Arrive Early)
“WHERE: David Webb Park, Harriman - First Covered Shelter
“WHAT TO DO: Please come and bring family and friends Hotdogs available for purchase- drinks & desserts furnished Tables & chairs provided - bring lawn chairs if desired.”

So, as we used to say — Y’All Come!