Regular Grand Jury Says More Work Options Needed At Workhouse; Urges Settling Misdemeanors In Lower Courts

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Regular Hamilton County Grand Jury has offered a number of ideas for getting more work out of workhouse inmates.

In a final report to Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman, the panel headed by Robert Smith recommended that a vegetable garden be started at the Silverdale facility to give the prisoners an outlet and also provide fresh vegetables.

The panel also said the inmates should be used in landscaping county properties and roads.

Vocational programs, such as small engine repair, should be made available, the report says.

The Grand Jury also urged that misdemeanor cases be all handled in the lower courts so as not to clog the Criminal Courts.

Another recommendation is that a law be passed that bonding companies have to charge 10 percent of the bond amount and not be able to let defendants out for lower amounts.

Here is the full report:                                                                                                             

The Honorable Barry Steelman

Judge, Criminal Court, Division I

Hamilton County, Tennessee


Judge Steelman:


The Regular Grand Jury for the May – August, 2013 term presents the following report:


The Regular Grand Jury would like to thank all those employed in the Grand Jury process.  They are very knowledgeable, helpful and supportive to us as we strive to perform our duty.  We would encourage all citizens to serve as a member of a Grand Jury.


The tours of the Silverdale facility, County Jail, and Juvenile Detention Center and the presentation on Community Corrections were very informative. 


Hearing the testimony of law enforcement personnel made all of us more aware of the work they perform for the citizens of Hamilton County, and the dangers they face on a regular basis.


We appreciated the legal information provided by Jerry Sloan, Assistant District Attorney and Donna Stapp, who served as our notetaker for this term.


This report reflects the opinion of the Regular Grand Jurors.  We are charged with reporting on the Silverdale facility and the Community Corrections programs.


SILVERDALE  FACILITY  (CCA)

COMMENDATIONS:


(1)  Having inmates work, whether on or off site, is a good first step toward rehabilitation when they are released from the facility.


(2)  The administration of the Silverdale facility appears to be very efficient and well organized.


(3)  Having inmates do artwork should help with re-establishing self-esteem for the artists, especially if a media presentation, such as a local newspaper article or TV station segment would make this known to the public.


(4)  The facility was well maintained and very clean. 


(5)  Providing programs, both educational and self-help, is an excellent way to assist inmates to adjusting to life after jail.

(6)  The kitchen staff is to be commended for provideding regular meals, as well as special diets, both medical and religious, and having high scores on the inspection reports.


(7)  The medical services provided to the inmates, including the initial physical, dispensing of prescription medications and in-house medical services appears to be very efficient.


RECOMMENDATIONS:

(1)  Even though Silverdale provides a variety of programs for the inmates, a rehabilitation program needs to be established which would include a corrective plan for a change of attitudes and behaviors toward self and society.  Perhaps, if such programs were developed, while the individual is still incarcerated, they could learn to develop goals and start to overcome their unlawful way and have a positive change when released from jail.  Such a program should include former inmates who have turned their lives around and are now law abiding citizens.


(2)  The Grand Jurors should have the opportunity to interview inmates at random absent employees of CCA.


(3)  Some parts of the old buildings have a black fly problem which needs to be corrected.


(4)  Since there are not enough jobs for all the inmates at “The Workhouse”, a vegetable garden should be established to provide work opportunities and fresh vegetables for the kitchen.  Also, inmates could do landscaping on County property and clean up on the banks of the Tennessee River and small streams.


(5)  More intensive search of inmates upon their return from off-site work and increased accountability of the off-site guards is needed in order to reduce contraband being introduced into the facility.


(6)   Development of a short-term vocational educational program, such as small engine repair, would provide the inmates with a skill to utilize upon release.


COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS

COMMENDATIONS;


(1)  These programs appear to be a very good alternative for jail for non-violent offenders.  Also, it is much less expensive than incarcerating individuals.


(2)  Using the phase 1-2-3 concept permits the offender to sequentially improve behavior and hopefully return to society as a responsible citizen.



RECOMMENDATIONS:


Community Corrections needs a sufficient staffing level to efficiently and effectively monitor the individuals in the program.



CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

(1)  Funds need to be provided to permit all County inmates to have access to video equipment for Court appearances and visitation.


(2)  This Grand Jury, as well as numerous prior ones, strongly recommends that all misdemeanor charges be settled at the City or Sessions Court level.  The Criminal Courts should not be bogged down with offenses such as not wearing a seat belt, driving on a revoked license, no vehicle insurance, speeding, etc.


(3)  Every defendant should be entitled to a public defender, even if the defendant is able to post bond, because, in many cases, a relative or friend has paid for the bond.


(4)  Once an inmate has been released from incarceration, and has paid all outstanding fines and Court costs, he/she should be required to repay the cost of the incarceration.


(5)  A long range budget plan should be developed to maintain and update all technology involved in the Criminal Justice System in Hamilton County.


(6)  A power usage study needs to be done at Silverdale and the County Jail to help reduce utilities cost.


(7)  Tennessee State Law needs to be rewritten to specify that all bail bonds are to be set at 10 percent of the total bond, not some lesser percentage.  This would keep bonding companies from charging a lesser percentage which, in effect, reduces the bond that the Judge or Magistrate has established.


(8)  The State of Tennessee needs to fund at least one more laboratory for analysis of blood and/or suspect narcotics.  The current delay in receiving the results, which may be up to 3 months, is unacceptable.  “Justice delayed, is justice denied.”


(9)  Inmates who commit crimes while incarcerated should receive enhanced penalties for their actions, especially assault on an employee of the facility.


(10)  Most of the issues in the Criminal Justice System are due to a lack of funding by local and State sources.


CASES  HEARD  THIS  TERM

The Regular Grand Jury, serving during the May – August, 2013 term, heard witnesses  testify on 546 cases.


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