Knox Sheriff Wants Funds to Build New Detention Center

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - The new sheriff calls his proposed budget 'bare bones'.

But some Knox County Commissioners are asking for some solid numbers on what we'd have to pay to ease jail crowding.

Some might call this the re-birth of the failed Justice Center. But it's more like the first steps toward a downtown intake center.

“JJ”, as everyone calls Sheriff Jones, is among friends. Thanks to term limits and appointments 13 of Knox County’s 19 commissioners have never done a budget. But five of them have either direct or family ties to the Sheriff's Department.

So County Commissioner Mark Harmon didn't get very far when he asked whether service or safety would suffer if the sheriff's man power were at 95 percent rather than full staff.

If anything, the debate shifted to how to fix a Downtown Jail and East Side Detention Center overflowing with accused criminals and inmates.

"We've got 230 reservations right now to fill 190 beds We're gonna be overcrowded as soon as that new pod is open,” says Knox County Commissioner Lee Tramel, who is also a Sheriff’s Department employee.

"We'll stack them to the ceiling if that's what you want. But if we don't have space to put them in we can't keep them. So you build jails turn them loose or pay 5,000 dollars a day per person that you keep over the cap,” says Sheriff Jones.

"Are we looking at coming in with maybe a program or a plan on how to eliminate the problem?" says Commissioner Mike Hammond.

Almost on cue, Sheriff Jones said he could in a matter of weeks.

He's talking about an intake center. To be built right across from the city county building that could hold about 100 inmates waiting for their court appearances. He claims he could pay for it with the money saved not having to haul those inmates back and forth to the Detention Center, a six mile round trip.


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