Sullivan County commissioners, jail leaders working to resolve jail overcrowding

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Sullivan County leaders are working to fix the dangerously overcrowded jail.

As of Thursday – more than 1,000 inmates are in the jail. It’s a facility with only 619 beds.

Two Sullivan County commissioners proposed a resolution to help come up with a solution.

The resolution is sponsored by commissioners Todd Broughton and Alicia Starnes.

It’s asking Sullivan County criminal justice system leaders to develop and present a plan to the commission within two months to reduce the inmate population.

Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy calls the jail a violent facility – saying assaults between inmates and on officers are frequent.

It’s one of the reasons why county and jail leaders are working to figure out what’s next.

Commissioner Broughton is hoping for a more concrete plan moving forward.

“Everyone involved in the justice system to help us figure out a way to alleviate the jail crowding before we sit down and even think about building a new building,” Commissioner Broughton said.

The plan to potentially build a new jail is still in the works.

“I’ve heard people say maybe hire another judge would greatly help,” Broughton also said, “I’ve heard folks bring up the idea of like an evening court.”

Sheriff’s office leaders said they’ve been working to reduce the inmate population.

One of the initiatives they’re working on is pretrial release.

“People that can’t afford to make bond and they’ve not committed any crimes against a person, we’re going to try and get those individuals out,” Chief Jail Administrator Lee Carswell said.

This is an effort that would help in a facility that’s overcrowded by hundreds of inmates.

“We’re really hoping within the next month. We will have to meet with the judges, the DA, the magistrates. Ultimately – it’s going to be their decision on what parameters,” Carswell said.

The sheriff’s office is also hoping for more programs to help people once eligible for release.

“It’s not good for the inmates, good for the taxpayers, and it’s not good for the folks who work in the sheriff’s department. We’re going to have to come to a resolution on this and we’re going to have to do it by working together,” Commissioner Broughton said.

As of August – Tennessee Department of Correction data shows the Sullivan County Jail continues to be the most overcrowded in our region, followed by the Washington County and Carter County jails.

Those jails are only overcrowded by 69 inmates each.

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