Program offers alternative to jail time in Anderson County

Program offers alternative to jail time in Anderson County

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By ANN KEIL
6 News Reporter

CLINTON (WATE) -- Anderson County officials are turning to an old idea in hopes of saving taxpayers money, ridding the streets of crime, and easing the burden on the county jail.

The county's criminal court has seen an 83 percent increase in case load since 2006, which is pumping more prisoners into an already overcrowded jail.

"Your facility is set up for a certain amount of people, and once you go over that number, it does create a lot of problems," said Anderson County Sheriff Paul White.

White and Judge Don Elledge, the county's criminal court judge, agree the problems can be avoided with a program that gives non-violent offenders an alternative to jail time.

"If they are sitting in jail they may get detox for 30 days, but that does not mean they've received all the treatment they should have for them to realize it's ongoing. You've got to set up a life altering course," said Judge Elledge.

He has been trying to bring the community corrections program back to the county since 2007. Former county officials got rid of the program in the 1990s.

The program will soon offer participants alcohol and drug education classes, and therapy.

At the same time, participants are expected to work, support their families, pay their court costs and remain drug-free.

"They are being supervised and they're coming back to becoming a productive member of society," Judge Elledge explained.

There is another perk, the judge said. Instead of taxpayers paying big bucks to house inmates program, participants only cost about $5 a day.

Currently, each inmate costs upwards of $55 a day. That is more than $20,000 a year for just one person.

The first participants that are eligible for the program will be on board before the end of this month.

Sheriff White says that is a big relief to him. "It'll help us even if we can just get relief from two or three inmates. Anything at this point in time helps."

Anderson County has already been awarded a $130,000 from the state to get the program up and running.

That money will also pay for two new officers that will be hired by the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency, which will operate the program.

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