The Concurrent Grand Jury, in a final report, said members of the County Commission should be required to visit the same correctional facilities it does.
The report, read by DeAnna Anderson, who heads the panel, said, "We feel that County Commissioners should be required to visit the same facilities we do on a regular basis to see first-hand the hardships they face.
Grand jurors said inmates at the workhouse have it better than many citizens, especially seniors, with "three hot meals a day, and the high quality of health care they receive."
Like the Regular Grand Jury, the recommendation was to require the inmates to work toward their GEDs.
The panel said many of the inmates are surprisingly good artists, and an exhibit of their work should be planned.
Here is the full report:
The Honorable Barry Steelman
Judge, Criminal Court, Division III
Hamilton County, Tennessee
The Concurrent Grand Jury for the May- August, 2012 term presents the following report:
The members of the Concurrent Grand Jury have found this opportunity to serve their community very rewarding. Many of them came into their service with great apprehension but have since expressed what an honor they have found it to be. The education they have received regarding the Criminal Justice System along with the understanding they have gained in seeing how the judicial process can work from beginning to end has been impressive.
They have come away from this experience, as many before them, with a renewed respect for our law enforcement officers. They now have a better understanding of the dangers they face and the challenges they must meet, such as, the high crime rate and the many resources and incentives being taken from them.
This Grand Jury is made up of employees of TN. Waste, Regis Distributing, UPS, Moccassin Bend facility, Webco Inc. and the City of Chattanooga. We also have a UTC professor, a pilot, a systems analyst/Architect for Blue Cross, a project manager for Dillard Construction as well as our self-employed juror and last, but never least, our honored retirees.
After touring the required facilities: Silverdale , Juvenile Court and Detention Center, the Hamilton County Jail and hearing a presentation on Community Corrections, we have been charged with reporting on Silverdale and Community Corrections.
While serving this term, the Concurrent Grand Jury heard 638 cases.
It is with great respect that we submit our observations and concerns on these facilities:
While many on this Grand Jury are no fan to the outsourcing of a private corporation to run a public facility, we were impressed to hear of the accreditation by the American Correctional Association this facility holds; one that is held only by1% of facilities like them.
Our tour, guided by Director of Corrections Tommy Standifer, along with Warden Jennings and Assistant Warden Christmas, was very thorough. We were met with professionalism and a forthcoming knowledge into the daily operations of the facility.
The entire staff, medical, educational, programs, unit managers, etc. were found to be very professional and purposeful.
We were very impressed, and for some, very surprised, at the cleanliness, upkeep and efficiency of the facility.
The educational courses and the classes aimed at “changing” behaviors seemed to be a step in the right direction. We were encouraged to see these classes full and feel it would be helpful in many ways to keep data as to the effectiveness these classes have on inmates’ lives.
We would like to see it mandatory that an inmate not having a high school diploma work toward that goal while at the facility.
While we realize that inmates have rights and some things are used as tools to keep them in line, it can be a “hard pill to swallow” when we hear of them watching television, having three hot meals a day, and the high quality of health care they receive. In a country where senior citizens have to ration medication or give up meals to have it and our young men and women are sent off to fight for our country with little more than a handshake and a few rations, it seems that this needs to be addressed. To the average hard working tax paying member of society, we feel having these amenities may be a hindrance in the rehabilitation of these inmates.
As we were amazed at the talent that was displayed in the murals that were done by inmates, we entertain the thought of an art show exhibit. We have a Grand Juror who works with The North River Civic Center where they have art shows that display local talent. We feel this would be great for the inmates self-esteem and interesting to the public, but we realize there are issues and obstacles that may hinder this thought.
We learned that these programs are meant to keep non-violent offenders from being put in a facility; which can be of significant savings to the taxpayer.
We believe when taken advantage of, these programs can be an avenue in which a defendant can change the direction in which their life is headed.
We feel the employees do a good job and would only benefit from having a higher ratio of probation officers to offenders.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
With the growing number of juveniles committing crimes that are sent to Criminal Court, we would like to see a reduction in any entitlement programs, i.e., food stamps, cell phones, etc. the parent may be receiving. Perhaps, when hit in the “wallet” some will take a closer look at what their children are doing.
As many before us, we have seen a large number of cases involving drugs and some find it frustrating to send a case upstairs knowing that the results have not yet come back from the TBI drug labs in both Knoxville and Nashville. While we trust our officer’s judgment, there have been cases in which after being True Billed, the lab results have come back negative. When all factors are considered, we feel that it would be beneficial to Law Enforcement, Grand Jurors and taxpayers to bring a crime lab back to Chattanooga.
While many people look at jury duty as a hardship, often looking for ways to get out of serving, we believe that awareness as to what the Grand Jury is all about should be aired through “Public Service” announcements. These could include brief interviews with people who have served; sharing their experience and the importance their service is to the community.
We feel that County Commissioners should be required to visit the same facilities we do on a regular basis to see first-hand the hardships they face.
While most people do not volunteer to serve on jury duty for the pay, it would help to increase the daily rate. A supplement, based on zip code, might be helpful to offset the cost of fuel.