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Jail Gets Better Report Than Expected

Despite fears of a shut-down by state fire marshals during their recent inspection of the Coffee County Jail, the results were apparently better than expected. In addition to the 20 men and five women that the Tennessee Department of Correction removed this week, Jail Administrator Capt. Pam Freeman told the county commission’s jail committee that General Sessions Judge Jere Ledsinger has approved the early release of nine local inmates incarcerated on misdemeanor charges, bringing the prison count down to 228, exceeding the jail’s official capacity by only 32 inmates. Despite overcrowding at the current 196-bed jail, with the population fluctuating up to 300 at times, Sheriff Steve Graves says that staffing levels have never been increased from the roughly 22 officers currently employed there. Graves said the outside work detail is also an important way to reduce the gang fights, bullying and stealing of food in the overcrowded cells, which create constant disruptions for corrections staff. CTAS is currently conducting a study for the needs of the proposed new jail. While the study is not yet complete, Graves told the Jail Review Committee that Jim Hart of CTAS had made reference to the poor visibility of high-rise designs, such as that of the Hamilton County Jail, which required a much higher ratio of corrections officers to inmates.