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Burglary task force formed

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

The sheriff is not the only one vowing to get tougher on lawbreakers now that Roane County has a new jail.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson is saying his office will as well.

“We are relieved that the new jail is finally ready to accommodate the people who need to be in jail,” Johnson said in a statement.

Overcrowding was a problem at the old jail. To try and keep the population down, many people who belonged in jail got a pass.

According to Johnson, policy was to issue citations instead of arrest people for misdemeanors with the exception of DUIs.

Johnson said the overcrowding also put the county at risk for lawsuits, so inmates with health problems and special needs were just let out or furloughed.

Now that the new jail has opened, Johnson said officers will now write arrest warrants on all cases except for low-level “C” misdemeanors.

Only the “most seriously ill” inmates will be considered for a medical furlough, according to the district attorney general.

Johnson also said that he and Sheriff Jack Stockton plan to meet with local judges to eliminate most of the policies they had in place to keep the population down at the old jail.

“Whereas we had to be more concerned about putting off cases and finding creative ways to keep the jail population under the state’s absurdly low requirements, we can now concentrate on putting people in jail,” Johnson said.

Stockton said the sheriff’s office will be more aggressive pursuing people who have warrants.

He said they also plan to do a roundup to pick people up that have been on a “waiting list.”

“We’re going to put together a plan to put the ones in jail that need to be there and make sure they serve full sentences,” Stockton said. “We’re going to make it a little bit tougher to get out once you get in.”

The sheriff’s office moved prisoners out of the old jail and into the new facility on Sept. 10.

The transition has gone well so far, Stockton reports.

“We have a few little issues, more electronic issues than anything,” he said.

“Procedures, everybody is getting used to the new way and forgetting about the old way. That’s probably one of the toughest things we’re dealing with right now.”

Stockton said Chief Deputy Tim Phillips has instituted a color-coded uniform system for the inmates.

“We have different uniforms for different classifications of inmates,” he said. “The red is max. The green is our minimum trusty. Blue is female and dark green is medium.”

Johnson and Stockton also announced the formation of a temporary burglary task force because of a string of burglaries that have occurred in Roane County and the surrounding area.

Agents with the Ninth Judicial District’s drug task force will help with the burglary task force.  

“By using agents from the DTF we can add manpower to the RCSO’s efforts as well as run down leads and information outside of Roane County,” Johnson said.