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Sheriff: $50,000 prevents need for jail expansion

Approximately $50,000 in renovations to the Washington County Detention Center will increase the inmate capacity and enable the county to avoid a building program.
“What we’re doing is expanding the jail, just not with bricks and mortar,” Commissioner Mitch Meredith said during the Nov. 15 meeting of the Budget Committee.
Sheriff Ed Graybeal presented quotes to add bunks to B-1, and bunks, sinks and toilets to B-2 and B-3. The renovations will increase the capacity to 566 in the main jail and 54 in the workhouse for a total of 620 beds.
Graybeal said the request is among the compliance recommendations made during the recent inspection by the Tennessee Corrections Institute.
“We worked out a plan but the head count is going up, and I think they’ll be back at the first of the year,” he said.
Mayor Dan Eldridge proposed taking a portion of the needed funds from the capital projects budget line, and committee members unanimously approved a motion to provide $30,879 from capital projects and the remaining $19,000 from the General Fund balance.
WCSO Chief Leighta Laitinen said the 557 head count as of Nov. 15 is under the Detention Center’s current 564-bed capacity.
While a recent transfer of Department of Corrections inmates helped ease overcrowding issues, Eldridge said the revenue received from housing state inmates needs to be tracked monthly because the $1.85 million projected during the first year of the contract has already been budgeted.
Commission Chair Greg Matherly said the WCSO has requests to pick up state inmates for parole violations who could fill any open beds immediately.
County Attorney John Rambo said a reconfiguration of the jail population will reduce the number of local inmates whose housing expenses must be covered by the county in order to make room for more state and federal inmates.
Washington County receives a daily reimbursement of $37 for each state inmate and $42 for each federal inmate.
WCSO officials said efforts by the judges to sentence the pre-trial inmates more quickly have reduced their number, which also saves the county money.