Hamblen County jailer, 12 inmates test positive COVID-19

During an inspection by the Tennessee Corrections Institute in September, the Hamblen County Jail again failed to meet all the applicable minimum standards for housing inmates. TCI inspectors are scheduled to return on Nov. 16 to determine whether the deficiencies have been corrected.

If history is a guide, there’s very little chance the numerous shortcomings will be corrected in the next 34 days.

TCI inspectors documented both procedural and environmental deficiencies. The jail was understaffed by five corrections officers on the day of the inspection, according to the TCI inspection report.

Criminal-history checks were not being completed when inmates were booked, and inmate phone calls were not being documented on a consistent basis. Due to overcrowding, the classification process is difficult to achieve. Overcrowding also makes it difficult to manage inmates with disabilities in a manner that provides for their safety and security, according to the report.

“The facility is not conducting or logging security checks with an hourly basis on and hour basis on an irregular schedule,” the inspection report states. “(The) jail administrator advised that due to safety concerns, the correctional officers were advised not to complete physical security checks unless there are two correctional officers present.”

Complicating the security checks is that lights in the main jail can only be turned on by the inmates in the cell areas. Officers have to enter areas with insufficient lighting and rely on inmates’ cooperation or use flashlights.

“This is only compounded by the fact that there are inmates that have to be housed in the hall areas, shower areas and other another inmate’s bunk on the floor due to overcrowding,” the report states.

The poor lighting and poor ventilation appears to be causing a continual mildew problem, and also makes it difficult to control the temperature. The cell areas are cluttered with an excessive number of strings, pictures, drawings, food items, books and paper. Vents and lights throughout the jail need to be cleaned or replaced, the inspectors concluded.

In some cells, the toilets and sinks leak, and at least one sink does not have hot water. One male cell has no water at all, and other cleanliness problems exist, according to the report.

“Mattress sanitation is not being completed on a consistent basis,” the inspection report states. “The blankets are not being laundered on a monthly basis and the sheets (are not being washed) on a weekly basis.”