Funding for county to house state felons upped, jail houses 170 such inmates
By Karen Sells
The fee-for-service contract with the State of Tennessee Department of Correction, approved by the county commission during its May meeting, went into effect July 1.
A $2 increase in the daily reimbursement rate now pays the county $37 per felon per day.
While the contract calls for the county to reserve 68 beds for felons sentenced to the state Department of Correction, Sheriff Ed Graybeal said the Washington County Detention Center currently houses 168 state inmates.
“Everything is overcrowded,” Graybeal said. “(Felons) sentenced to three years or less are basically ours.”
In addition to housing, the county is responsible for providing routine medical, mental health, and dental services of up to $1,000 per felon per fiscal year. The state takes over the payment for services above the $1,000 minimum.
Should a felon become a disciplinary problem or security risk that requires closer security and/or custody than can be provided, the county can request the felon be transferred to the state.
Graybeal said those cases are rare, with the only transfers he could think of related to medical problems.
However, new legislation increasing the mandatory jail time for repeat domestic assault offenders could bring overcrowding and potential disciplinary problems to a new level.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports domestic violence victims made up more than half of all reported crimes against Tennesseans during 2010 and 2011.
According to House Bill 2389, which also went into effect July 1, offenders with a second conviction will be charged a fine from $350 to $3,500, and be confined to the county jail or workhouse for a minimum of 45 days up to 11 months and 29 days.
For a third or subsequent conviction, a fine from $1,100 to $5,000 will be charged, and the offenders shall be confined in the county jail or workhouse for a minimum of 120 days up to 11 months and 29 days.
The five-year contract with the state Department of Correction for housing felons estimates Washington County will receive $1.9 million during 2013, with projections of $2.4 million during 2017. The maximum liability of the state under this contract is $10.9 million.