Sheriff Jim Hammond seeks re-election as Hamilton County Sheriff
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Jim Hammond announced today that he will seek re-election for his third term as Hamilton County Sheriff.
In addition to managing the fourth largest county law enforcement agency in the state, his two biggest areas of focus over the next four years will include: the transition and completion of the Hamilton County jail system under his direction and guidance; working with community groups, social services and healthcare to identify the mentally ill who are incarcerated and providing them with the treatment and support they need to become productive citizens.
“I’ve been very blessed to have the support of my family, friends, my fellow officers, elected officials, and you – the community at large – all urging me to seek another term in 2018,” said Sheriff Hammond. “I am very honored and humbled by your encouragement and support.”
Throughout his last term, with the support of the county mayor and commission, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office was charged with taking over the entire jail system, making ongoing improvements and keeping the system in compliance. Sheriff Hammond’s administrative responsibilities dramatically increased because of the additional oversight. The CoreCivic contract adds more than $14 million to the current Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office budget with eight or nine county staff becoming employees of the Sheriff’s Office. There are also approximately 185 contractual Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) employees.
“It is no secret that jail overcrowding is at epidemic levels across the country,” said Sheriff Hammond. “My goal is to eventually consolidate all prisoners at the Silverdale site where there is plenty of room for growth and expansion. In my opinion, there is also a better use for the property where the existing jail is located downtown as Chattanooga continues to grow and expand its business district.”
The sheriff also believes that with this consolidation, the cost per day to house an inmate will be dramatically reduced. Sheriff Hammond intends to begin implementing several other alternative and diversionary plans, which should also decrease the jail population and cost of operation.
In addressing mental illness, Sheriff Hammond noted that another way to alleviate overcrowding is to partner with groups across the county to take steps to help those who suffer from mental illness and should not be in jail. Often, 40 percent or more of the inmates in the Hamilton County jail are on psychotropic medications, amounting to more than $250,000 yearly. It is projected that approximately $525,000 will be spent on pharmaceuticals distributed by Erlanger Medical Center to the downtown jail alone this fiscal year.
“As part of my strategic management planning, we intend to make a very thorough inspection and evaluation of all that is being done with the mentally ill, veterans and the homeless who are incarcerated and how we intend to pursue and curtail this,” said Sheriff Hammond. “We owe it to those who are our most vulnerable, and we need to get them the help they need instead of criminalizing their conditions. We it owe to the citizens of Hamilton County to be efficient stewards of their tax dollars.”
The sheriff’s new initiatives will call for direct involvement from local and state officials, mental health agencies, hospitals, health care organizations, law enforcement, the court system and a variety of other community stakeholders to bring about the changes he is committed to through his next term.