Rhea County Officials Examine Overcrowding

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Updated: 2/13/2013 6:46 pm

There's one thing Rhea County officials agree on.

They say the crowded state of the county jail is unacceptable.

Beyond that, Sheriff Mike Neal, says it's been a long process without much progress.

WDEF went behind the scenes for a closer look at the situation inside the cells.

"I've got 180 prisoners in my jail that can hold 87, so I've got a grave issue with overcrowding right now," Sheriff Neal says.

Rhea County Executive George Thacker called a meeting Tuesday night.

Thacker says Corrective Institute Executive Director Beth Ash sent a letter indicating a need for quote 'measurable progress.'

"Buying land, or building a building, or getting plans for a building would be some progress they'd like to see. I think Nashville just wants to see us making progress," Thacker says.

Thacker says he favors an approach that's less of a burden to taxpayers.

Sheriff Neal proposed paying for a new justice center with one additional and one increased court fee, as well as through the money paid by the state for keeping inmates and juveniles.

But Budget Committee Chairman, Ron Masterson says the county commission wants to investigate all proposed sites to see which is the best buy.

"Some counties make so much money per inmate over and above what it cost to actually house them, and that's the figures that the sheriff is looking at," Masterson says.

Masterson says they're also looking at turning the current jail into a juvenile center once a detention center is built off site since the state pays so much more for juvenile prisoners than adults.

In Rhea County, Brittany Shaw, WDEF News 12.

The next meeting is scheduled for the third Tuesday in March.

We'll keep you posted as more details unfold.

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