In a somewhat surprising move, the Claiborne Jail Committee voted unanimously to do away with its regularly scheduled monthly meetings in favor of coming together only on an as-needed basis. The motion, made by James Hatmaker and seconded by David Mundy, also calls for the five-member committee to remain intact.
The Claiborne Commission recently voted down a resolution that would have done away with the jail committee. It appears the members of that committee decided to honor the essence of the resolution without going against state requirements that the county maintain a county correctional partnership act committee.
The last regular meeting, held on Oct. 28, netted a thorough financial and population rundown by CCSO Chief Deputy Wayne Lee.
The decertification of the Claiborne County Jail meant the loss of continuing revenues from the housing of discretionary prisoners. During the meeting, Lee said 51 state prisoners had been transferred to penitentiaries and that the last of the federal inmates would be gone by the end of the following week (Nov. 4).
On the day of the meeting, there were 147 prisoners housed inside the jail – a drastic reduction in numbers from the previous meeting in which 268 inmates were reportedly incarcerated.
Lee said the county will, for the short term, continue to receive revenue via other “paying” prisoners. In particular, there are 15 prisoners currently serving a two year determinate sentence, which means seven of those months will be served in the Claiborne County Jail before probation kicks in.
Eight convicted felons are currently serving a split confinement – usually sentenced to less than one year in jail, before the state places them on probation.
There are currently 22 inmates either awaiting judgments or considered ‘short timers’ from which revenues can be expected, according to Lee.
In total, some 45 prisoners are still generating money, albeit on a somewhat revolving and temporary basis.
Lee estimated the possible future revenues from these sources.
“Let’s say we’re always revolving 20 felons. And, say we’re always going to have about 15 of the determinate release people. And, let’s say we always have eight to ten people serving a split confinement. If that be the case, that’s going to generate about $380,000 before the year is over with,” said Lee.
From July 1 to the day of the meeting, Lee said the county has taken into its coffers $502,549.32 from revenues generated from the discretionary prisoners that had not yet left – $291,486 from state inmates and $206,956.48 from the federal prisoners.
For that same period, he said the circuit court clerk jail fees came to $4,100.
“I dare say it’s been spent, already, or a big chunk of it. I don’t know what the county would have done, without that jail revenue,” said Lee.
He estimated the losses range from $1 million to $1.355 million, depending on the number of federal inmates that would have been incarcerated to the end of the fiscal year.
Committee chairman Steve Mason asked whether the county could expect to house any federal prisoners in the future.
“There’s a gentleman’s agreement between me and the Marshal that we will accept any emergencies they might have – two or three or four – if they run into it and we have room for them. That was before we ever had a contract. Good law enforcement would never deny other law enforcement to keep prisoners overnight,” said Sheriff David Ray.
According to Lee, the Sheriff’s Office and the Park Service have that same gentleman’s agreement.
The only piece of old business handled during the meeting last week had to do with the purchase and installation of the 60 jail security locks.
Lee said there had been a total of two bids. However, there are but a handful of companies across the country that actually handle the type of heavy-duty security locks necessary to secure the jail, he said.
The bids will be opened at 3 p.m. on Nov. 4, at the Claiborne Finance Office.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.