Grand Jury Hails New Law On Scrap Cars; Says New Jail Is Needed; Prisoners Should Have To Work Toward GED; Marijuana Law Too Stiff

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Hamilton County Grand Jury, in a final report, praised changes made to tighten up the state law on disposal of scrap cars.

The report from the panel headed by Robert Smith notes that Grand Juries have long complained about scrap yards quickly scrapping vehicles that may have just been stolen.

The grand jurors praised Senator Bo Watson and Rep. Vince Dean for getting the law changed so that titles must be presented for vehicles up to 12 years old instead of 10 and for requiring scrap dealers to wait at least three business days before scrapping vehicles.

The report, given to Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman, also recommends stiffer punishment for those with second-offense DUI, but says it is too harsh to charge someone with a felony for marijuana possession after two prior drug convictions.

It is recommended that inmates be required to work toward getting a GED.

The Grand Jury also said the county jail downtown needs to promptly be replaced and it needs to be staffed with more officers.

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, 2012 term presents the following report:

Listening to the testimony of law enforcement officers made the jurors realize the
importance of these men and women to the public safety of Hamilton County. Also,
we realize the dangers associated with their job – every time they approach a door,
whether on a residence or a vehicle, danger may lurk behind the door. The Jury sincerely
appreciates these guardians of the public welfare.

The Jurors consider it a privilege to serve on the Grand Jury. We were given a greater
appreciation of our Court system, Judges, Law Enforcement Officers, District Attorneys,
and all the staff involved at the County Correctional facilities. The Grand Jury system
in Hamilton County appears to run very efficiently, and the service on the Jury has been
very enlightening and educational.

The Jurors appreciated the legal advice provided by Assistant District Attorney, Jerry
Sloan, and Joey Clements serving as our notetaker for this term.

This report reflects the opinions of the Regular Grand Jury. We are charged with
reporting on the County Jail and the Juvenile Detention Center.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

(1) Previous Grand Juries have recommended that the State Legislature strengthen the
requirements for selling a vehicle, ten years or older, for scrap metal without proof of a
title. This Regular Grand Jury commends two local State Legislators, Senator Bo Watson
(Hixson), and Representative Vince Dean (East Ridge), for successfully sponsoring
legislation to amend the current law by requiring a title for a vehicle less than twelve
years old, which is to be sold for scrap metal. Also, the scrap metal dealer must not
crush or shred the vehicle for at least three business days from the date of purchase of the
vehicle.

(2) Tennessee State Law should require that any time a vehicle is brought to a scrapyard
by a wrecker service, acceptable documentation must be provided to indicate that the
service has a legal right for the transfer to the scrapyard. The service and/or scrapyard
would be subject to a penalty for not possessing such documentation prior to and after the
transfer.

(3) Charging felony possession for a small amount of marijuana due to two or more prior
drug convictions seems harsh. The State Legislature should consider re examining this
penalty.

(4) After a second DUI conviction, the current punishment should be enhanced including
long-term loss of a driver’s license.

(5) Anytime illegal drugs are found in a residence with a child present, the child’s
parents should be considered to be involved in the criminal activity.

(6) The van used to transport the Grand and Petit Juries needs to be replaced with a 15-
seat van with dual rear wheels.

(7) Grand Juror badges should be of a form that can not be easily duplicated. We are
not aware of any problems associated with the current badges, but since the Jurors are
allowed to bring in items which might be prohibited otherwise, the current badges could
present a problem in other areas of the Courthouse. At the very least, the badges should
be numbered and assigned to a specific individual to prevent unauthorized use of the
badge.

(8) Any inmate who does not possess a high school diploma or GED should be required,
as part of his/her sentence, to work toward gaining a GED.

HAMILTON COUNTY JAIL

COMMENDATIONS:

(1) The staff of the facility appeared to be knowledgeable and concerned about the
welfare of the staff and the inmates.

(2) The newly installed video in the intake area, which gives potential inmates an
overview of jail life, is an excellent orientation tool.

(3) The Food Service Supervisor needs to be commended for the nutritionally sound
meals served at the jail for $3.09 per inmate per day. Part of the labor cost is reduced by
using inmate workers, plus all bread and many other food items are made from scratch,
which saves taxpayer dollars.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

(1) This Grand Jury, as many Juries in the past, strongly recommends that the Hamilton
County Commission immediately begin to plan a total replacement facility for the current
Jail. The present physical structure of the Jail does not meet contemporary correctional
standards and is extremely labor intensive. It would seem as though the design of the
Silverdale Facility could be used as a starting point, with needed modifications, to save
on architectural fees.

(2) Much of the current kitchen equipment is outdated and/or in disrepair and needs to
be replaced. The Jury realizes that money is always a consideration, but why not buy
good used equipment from a restaurant going out of business and/or buy equipment at
auctions?

(3) The Jury encourages the effort to install video visitation equipment on all floors of
the Jail, to minimize the amount of inmate travel throughout the facility.

(4) Inmates should be required to follow directives from the medical staff in order to
keep inmates from constantly visiting the Clinic with the same medical issues which
results in a higher cost to the taxpayers. For example, inmates with diabetes should not
be permitted to order items from the Commissary which are known to raise blood sugar.

(5) Hand sanitizers need to be available throughout the Jail for employees and inmates.

(6) The Hamilton County Commission needs to fund additional officers for the Jail, in
order to have a reasonable number on the floor each day in case other officers are off due
to illness and/or transporting inmates to medical facilities. In addition, the salaries of the
Jail Deputies need to be increased.

(7) The Jail is used to house inmates with severe medical/psychological problems that
are not accepted by Moccasin Bend due to the inmates medical condition. The current
Jail facility permits some segregation of these inmates, but a separate facility is needed
for those with these type conditions.

(8) When inmates are processed into the County Jail, they are issued an “Inmate
Handbook”. Consideration should be given to rewriting the content in language that
could be more readily understandable by an individual with a limited educational
background.

JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER

COMMENDATIONS:

(1) The Staff appeared to be knowledgeable and interested in being helpful to the youth.

(2) The Facility appeared to be in acceptable physical shape and well organized.

(3) The rooms were appropriate for incarceration – no luxuries present.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

(1) This Grand Jury, as many previous Grand Juries, strongly recommends that funds be
provided from the State and/or County to reinstate the Intensive Probation Program. This
program, which focused on “last chance” juveniles, was very successful, based on the

recidivism rate. Due to the personnel needed, the program is costly on the front end, but
saves money later on by keeping these juveniles from being housed, at public expense, in
County or State correctional facilities, as adults.

(2) All juveniles who are validated gang members should be required to do some type of
community service as part of their punishment.

(3) A “boot camp” should be established for some juvenile offenders emphasizing work
skills, discipline and education.

(4) The Jury is also concerned that the recent closing of the Taft facility in Pikeville,
with its successful vocational program, will impact the successful rehabilitation for area
juvenile offenders.

CASES HEARD THIS TERM

During the May – August, 2012 term, the Regular Grand Jury heard witnesses testify on
566 cases.


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