ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Northeast Correctional Complex Annex in Carter County could close as early as this fall if Gov. Bill Lee’s budget passes as is.
“Since the reduction is a part of the entire state budget instead of a single specific item, I do expect the governor’s budget to pass,” said Tennessee State Rep. Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City), who represents Johnson, Carter, and Sullivan Counties. “Therefore I do expect the Carter County Annex to close and the projection I’ve been given if all of that were to occur would be fall of 2021.”
Late Tuesday, Gov. Lee’s office confirmed the plan is part of ongoing prison reform shifting non-violent offenders out of prisons and into community supervision programs.
The plan would consolidate the main Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City and it’s annex in Roan Mountain.
“The people I have spoken with would prefer like I prefer that Carter County Annex remain open and functional, housing inmates, employing people, using water and being one of the largest customers for the utility system in Roan Mountain,” said Campbell. “Departments were asked for a budget reduction across the board and Tennessee Department of Corrections determined within their own agency that this was one of the best options for them based upon their needs statewide.”
The annex has a capacity of 180 inmates. Last year, there were about 100 inmates in the facility each month providing services like trash pick up for governments and work for non-profits.
“As we see the shift of more inmates being in the community under probation and parole and less in that minimum custody setting, it shifted the need for the department and the resources a little bit,” said Tennessee Department of Corrections Commissioner Tony Parker. “We are 100% committed to continuing those same services, it’s just a matter of moving those crews to the main facility, saving the money that’s associated with that Carter County facility that had a lot of empty beds over the years.”
Those who live near the facility in Roan Mountain say they are okay with the facility closing.
“It would be less trouble on the road,” said Ernest King, who moved about two miles away from the facility two years ago. “Sometimes people will come to bring something and other people will call the police and they’ll tell them….just some contraband trying to get snuck in.”
Joshua Hitechew’s family has owned the house just below the facility for more than two decades. He shared a similar sentiment as his neighbor from up the road.
“I haven’t seen any inmates escape or anything like that,” Hitechew said. “I guess they call people from around Knoxville and they drive up here and I guess they go out on the yards or whatever and they throw something over to them is what they do.”
The employees will have the option to work at the main complex in Mountain City where the inmates in the annex will be moved.
“No employee will lose their job. They will all have an opportunity for employment at the Johnson County location. That’s going to be horrible for some people and possibly great for others based upon their geography, their family, their home life and such,” Campbell said. “Then the question becomes what happens with a closed Carter Co. Annex building? That’s a lot of square footage to maintain. What goes in there next? What should go in there next? How much will that cost?”
The state’s budget is up for a vote on the house floor Thursday at 10 am ET, 9 am CT.