Plans moving forward to conduct study on costs of Unicoi jail annex expansion

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ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – Unicoi County is moving forward with a study to determine the costs of expanding the jail annex facility to house state inmates.

The jail annex expansion being looked at center around the female inmate facility on Jackson Love Highway in Erwin, behind the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office.

The Unicoi County Building and Grounds Committee voted unanimously to have a study conducted about the jail. It is looking at how much it would cost to turn the area temporarily housing records into space for more inmates. The study is still pending approval from the full Unicoi County Commission.

“Luckily for us in Unicoi County, we have a very small county female population,” said Unicoi County Commissioner John Mosley. “My understanding is anywhere from five to ten on average a month, which is not a great deal.”

According to Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley, the current facility can house 38 inmates.

“Anything we can do to offset the cost of the operations of the jail and to prevent possibly a tax increase on the tax payers,” said Hensley, “I’m all for it.”

Mosley said he believes the facility could house 20 more state inmates.

The county would make $39.50 a day for each inmate housed in its facility.

“That’s approximately $288,000 a year coming into the county,” said Mosley.

The Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office would vet state inmates before bringing them in. Sheriff Hensley said many county inmates are coming off drugs.

“They have more medical costs than the state inmates,” he said.

Mosley said he does not think jail overcrowding would be an issue.

“We have plenty of room for expansion,” he said. “In other words, if we have more county inmates come in and if it were, we would simply send some state inmates back and keep the county inmates.”

Before the county can move ahead with the study, it would need full approval from the Unicoi County Commission. They meet again on January 27th.

Sheriff Hensley said Unicoi County has to run two jails because neither facility meets the TCI requirement for separating men and women.

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