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New Roane Jail Struggles With Overcrowding


This was supposed to solve the problem.

In 2009, the Roane County Sheriff's Department proudly showed off its brand new, $10 million jailhouse to a public weary of fighting about it.  The long-awaited opening of the facility followed more than a decade of heated discussion, shuttled plans and warnings that the previous facility was dangerously overcrowded. 

Four years later, the county is facing some of the same problems.  On a typical day, jailhouse officials say you'll find about 200 inmates living in a building designed for 172.  That's a rough average; the number has been known to approach 240 during particularly busy times.  Overcrowding is especially bad in the 34-bed women's area, where many of the inmates are forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor.  A July 2 inspection by the Tennessee Corrections Institute found the women's area also lacked an adequate number of toilets, wash basins and showers.

As a result of that recent inspection, state officials are now considering decertifying the four year-old facility.  Decertification could result in higher insurance premiums, costs that could be passed on to taxpayers who turned down a funding request for the new jail as recently as 2006. 

The Tennessee Corrections Institute will meet September 4 to discuss decertification of the facility.  In the meantime, Roane County officials say they're working with state consultants to explore alternatives. 

(See Tennessee's minimum requirements for local jails)