Collins discusses program to reduce jail overcrowding
Hamblen County Commissioners were told about a new court program that will hopefully lower the constant jail over-population during the Jail Study Committee meeting Monday morning.
The committee also heard the results of a structural assessment on the facility.
According to Senior Structural Engineer Sandra Olandt, of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects, Inc. in Knoxville, the overall condition of the original building, built in the 1970s, is “fair.”
In her report, Olandt cites gaps between the exterior masonry walls and the interior masonry walls stemming from inadequate support of the roof hip structure.
“The structural problems do not appear to be a source of eminent danger at this point,” she stated.
The report was requested as part of the Jail Study Needs assessment study.
The company is pulling together quotes on options to address and resolve repairing the truss system, which appears to be the cause of multiple problems.
General Session Judge Doug Collins addressed the committee, saying for the past several weeks, he, along with the County Mayor’s office and probation office have been working on a program that is an “intensive community service program” that will help with jail over crowding.
Collins said the program will not be a cure-all, but will alleviate some of the jail’s population issues by looking at alternative sentencing for those charged with failure to appear, violating a court order and driving under the influence among other charges.
The alternative sentencing would be after state mandated sentencing.
“We’ve modeled our program after the Sevier County program,” Collins said. “Basically, it will allow us to put people out on the road picking up litter and maybe some other projects, rather than spending their time in jail.
“Ten years ago, state statute changed and required DUI offenders to spend three days picking up litter; it’s never been done here. We’ve not been compliant for at least a decade now. This program would allow us to become in compliance.”
Collins said the program will not be costly, and the main items they will need to purchase is vests and gloves.
“I think we’ll see some immediate benefits,” Collins said.
-By Aletheia Davidson, Tribune Staff Writer