Grand Jurors "Appalled" At Lack Of Manpower At County Jail

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Members of the Hamilton County Grand Jury said in a final report that they are "appalled" at the lack of manpower at the County Jail.

The panel, headed by Robert Smith, said, " This lack of manpower leaves officers with overly burdensome duties and subjects them to physical and psychological 'burnout'."

The report said the presence of known gang members in the jail "makes the officers’ jobs even more difficult.  This overall lack of manpower could lead to officers and inmates suffering serious injury.  The county fiscal body must provide funding for more officers at the Jail before a very serious incident occurs at that facility, which will require that the needed funds to be provided."

Here is the full report:

The Honorable Don Poole

Judge, Criminal Court, Division III

Hamilton County, Tennessee


Judge Poole:


The Regular Grand Jury for the September – December, 2013 term presents the following Report:


The members of the Regular Grand Jury found the experience to be very educational and would encourage all citizens who receive a subpoena to serve, if possible.  Receiving first-hand testimony about crime in Hamilton County made us realize that crime is not as depicted on many so-called reality shows on television.


Hearing law enforcement officers give first person testimony about their work, which is done on a daily basis, made us more appreciative of their effort to protect the citizens of Hamilton County. 


The legal information provided by Assistant District Attorney Jerry Sloan was very helpful and appreciated.  Also, we very much appreciated Mytra Layne serving as the notetaker for this term. 


This report reflects the opinions of the members of the Regular Grand Jury.  We are charged with reporting on the County Jail and Juvenile Detention Center.  We appreciated the very informative tour of the Silverdale facility and the interesting presentation regarding the Community Corrections Program. 


The Regular Grand Jury issues the following commendations and recommendations:


HAMILTON  COUNTY  JAIL

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:


(1)  Considering the age of the Jail (some parts are 37 years old), it appears to be well maintained.


(2)  The inmates are well cared for in the way of health and dental needs, provided three meals per day, have educational and religious opportunities, and ways to excel as a hard worker, such as serving as a worker in the kitchen, to hopefully be rehabilitated and become a productive member of society.




(3)  The kitchen manager, Mr. Hughes, takes pride in his area of operations.  He is to be commended for utilizing inmate labor, which keeps the food costs very low and also provides inmates with the opportunity to learn a skill which can be utilized upon their release.  Our lunch meal, which was the same as the inmates, except for dessert, was very good.


(4)  The video in the intake areas which provides new inmates with information regarding jail procedures is very helpful.


RECOMMENDATIONS:


(1)  The Grand Jurors did notice some maintenance issues, such as poorly lit areas due to burned out light bulbs, peeling paint and cracked windows in the observation booths. 


(2)  The elevator appeared slow, especially considering the number of inmates and food that has to be moved between floors every day.  If possible, the elevators needed to be upgraded to move faster.


(3)  This Grand Jury is appalled at the lack of sufficient manpower at the County Jail.  Of course, this is not a new observation, as it has been made in numerous prior Reports.  This lack of manpower leaves officers with overly burdensome duties and subjects them to physical and psychological “burnout”.  The presence of known gang members in the Jail makes the officers’ jobs even more difficult.  This overall lack of manpower could lead to officers and inmates suffering serious injury.  The County fiscal body must provide funding for more officers at the Jail before a very serious incident occurs at that facility, which will require that the needed funds to be provided.

Jurors should have the opportunity during the days they serve to observe criminal trials, as opposed to hearing witnesses for that period of time.

(4)  The County Sheriff should develop a marketing program to interest high school and college graduates to become corrections officers.


JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER


COMMENDATIONS:


(1)  Newly appointed Juvenile Court Judge, Robert Phillyaw, seems very dedicated to improving the welfare of potential/actual juvenile offenders.  He definitely wants to develop better procedures for addressing the truancy and curfew issues, and providing assistance to children to reduce the influence of gangs and the recidivism rate.


(2)  The facility appeared to be clean and well maintained.  Also, the kitchen staff provides three well balanced meals per day.






RECOMMENDATIONS:


(1)  The biggest need appears to be some type of a multipurpose building where the detained juveniles can receive rehabilitation and the family can receive needed services.  A strong family network is needed to work with these children in the rehabilitation process.  Currently, families must travel over two hours, one way, to visit a juvenile in State custody. This building could also provide a facility to hold youths who are found to be violating the City curfew.  There is a building behind the current facility which could be utilized for such a multipurpose facility.


(2)  There should be a stricter curfew law and/or the violations should be better enforced.  This could help curb gang violence.  A 24-hour facility in which to house the juvenile curfew offenders should be established, which would permit the police officers to return to duty quickly.


GRAND JURY SERVICE

 

Jurors should have the opportunity during the days they serve to observe criminal trials, as opposed to hearing witnesses for that period of time.

CASES HEARD THIS TERM

 

During the September-December, 2013, term the Hamilton County Regular Grand Jury heard witnesses testify on 483 cases.






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