Members of the Hamilton County Grand Jury told Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman on Wednesday that no one seems to be listening to their reports.
"The criminals are winning," Foreman Marsha Crabtree.
The report says numerous grand juries give similar reports, but they go unheeded.
Ms. Crabtree said many grand juries have called for the replacement of the Hamilton County Jail.
The report says, "We will say this again ¡V Hamilton County needs a new Jail. The present jail is over 30 years old, with an obsolete design that is incompatible with current needs."
The panel also called for a new juvenile detention facility here.
Here is the full report:
Dear Judge Steelman,
We members of the Regular Grand Jury for the May ¡V August 2007 term appreciate the opportunity to serve our community in this very important capacity. It has been a very educational and enlightening experience and one that we will never forget. We can understand now why it is so important for all citizens to serve on the Grand Jury when given the opportunity. We also feel very strongly that all local officials should be required to serve on the Grand Jury.
We debated about what we wanted to say in this report to the Court and came to the conclusion that it really doesn¡¦t seem to matter what we say, or how many times we say it. After reading and discussing several of the past Grand Jury Final Reports, we wondered why we should even bother with our own similar comments. Because so many of the same comments are made year after year, it appears obvious to us that no one really pays any attention to the report. We have nothing new to add to those many credible comments and recommendations made over the years ¡V it has all been said many, many times before by the previous Grand Juries.
No Grand Jurors pretend to be experts on any of this, and we know that no one is obligated to follow the recommendations of the Grand Jury. However, we feel like our 4-month term, hearing testimony on nearly every crime imaginable, as well as our extensive tours of the Hamilton Co. penal facilities, have given us a broader insight into our community and a better perspective of our criminal justice system, resulting in what we consider to be well-founded observations and opinions.
In summary, we can¡¦t help but feel that our judicial and corrections systems seem to be mired in futility ¡V and the criminals appear to be winning.
HAMILTON CO. JAIL
We will say this again ¡V Hamilton County needs a new Jail. The present Jail is over 30 years old, with an obsolete design that is incompatible with current needs. Until such time that the County ever seriously considers a new well-designed Jail, there continue to be certain compelling needs within the facility that must be addressed. We hope that the funding will now be available for more of the requested significant and necessary upgrades to the various technical and security systems, as well as for much-needed additional staff.
We strongly encourage the members of the County Commission to tour the entire Jail as a group for a more thorough, realistic comprehension of the pressing security and safety issues and needs of that facility. We feel that a complete tour like ours, of the Jail, Silverdale and Juvenile Justice Center, would be very helpful in providing them with a better understanding of what so many Grand Juries have been reporting for so long. No one can possibly appreciate or truly understand the situations or critical needs of the facilities without ever going through them. The group of Commissioners is welcome to join the Grand Jury on their next tour of these facilities.
We hope that the County Commission is able to restructure the Magistrate program into a more credible and efficient system. We see the definite need for a 24-hour Magistrate at the Jail and suggest that only Criminal Attorneys be selected for future positions.
JUVENILE JUSTICE CENTER
Also like the past Grand Juries, we urge Hamilton County to immediately pursue plans and funding for a local Juvenile Correctional Facility that will be a much more comprehensive facility than the present Juvenile Detention Center. We strongly recommend that the TN General Assembly approve such a facility for Hamilton County in the immediate future.
As seen in the news nearly every day, violent crimes committed by juveniles are a major problem for our community and the nation, with more young offenders being transferred to adult Criminal Court each year. The hope of everyone who supports a local correctional facility is to reach the at-risk children at an early age before they are irretrievably lost to a life of crime and incarceration.
COMMENTS & RECOMMENDATIONS
We concur with the comments and recommendations made in prior Grand Jury reports.
We thank the following people for their assistance and support during our term:
„h Amy Northern, Edna Camp, Gwen Tidwell and the staff of the Criminal Court Clerk¡¦s Office; Jamie Brown and Peggy Hudson of the District Attorney¡¦s Office; Court Liaison Officers SGT Brenda Hafley and SGT Lee Robbs of the Chattanooga Police Dept.; Deputy Morris Bice of the Sheriff¡¦s Dept.; and the Courts Building Security Officers and personnel.
„h Sheriff¡¦s Deputy Bobby Williams, our driver-escort to the facility tours.
„h Administration and staff members who conducted our tours through CCA Silverdale, the Jail, and the Juvenile Justice Center. We greatly appreciate their time and very informative facility tours.
„h Law enforcement for their tireless and dangerous efforts on behalf of all of us. To those officers injured on duty, we wish you a successful recovery. To the officers who have been, are now, or will soon be deployed in the U.S. military, we salute and thank you for your service to our country.
„h John Wilson and his online news website Chattanoogan.com for publishing the Grand Jury Final Reports in their entirety. Our local newspapers used to provide coverage of the reports but have not done so for several years. We appreciate Mr. Wilson¡¦s efforts very much.
„h Don Cambron for taking the official notes for our group this term. We strongly recommend that the member of the Grand Jury who handles that required, important and very busy position be paid more than the regular $13 per day.
„h Steve Farner for serving as Foreman ProTem when Foreman Marsha Crabtree had to be gone one week during our term.
„h Assistant D.A.¡¦s Bill West, Rex Sparks and Dave Denny, and Foreman Marsha Crabtree, for their guidance, assistance and explanations during our sessions this term.
Respectfully submitted by the members of the
HAMILTON COUNTY REGULAR GRAND JURY,
Marsha Crabtree, Foreman