New justice center to open in Jefferson County

New justice center to open in Jefferson County

Sheriff David Davenport gave 6 News an exclusive tour of the new facility that more than triples current capacity for inmates. Sheriff David Davenport gave 6 News an exclusive tour of the new facility that more than triples current capacity for inmates.

January 24, 2007

By ADAM LONGO
6 News Reporter

DANDRIDGE (WATE) -- A new, $16 million Justice Center is set to open its doors in Jefferson County. The facility brings the county Sheriff's Department, the jail and most of the court system under one roof. Elected officials in the county say it's long overdue.

"We don't have any of this. This is all new. How many cameras do we have, Bud? 116 cameras," says Jefferson County Sheriff David Davenport as he gives 6 News an exclusive tour of the new justice center.

The new facility more than triples current capacity for inmates. The old jail faced de-certification and federal action if appropriate steps weren't taken to remedy the situation.

The differences between the facilities are night and day. The old courthouse, in the heart of downtown Dandridge, was built in 1845 at a cost of $5,000.

The current jail was built in 1978 with a capacity of 52 inmates. On Wednesday, 160 inmates were housed in the current jail.

The new jail has the capacity for 188 inmates, but the sheriff says, it can accommodate even more than that.

But with that $16 million price tag, comes questions if the county's money is best spent on this particular project.

"This is better management, better jail records, to better track the criminal element in the county also," Davenport says.

"We have to build schools. We'll always be building schools. The justice center is hopefully something we won't have to build for a while," says County Commissioner Matthew Evon.

"I think all the taxpayers in Jefferson County are going to be proud of what they have," says local attorney Richard Talley.

Some of the sheriff's department employees are already being trained. Other county workers can't wait. They're already moving in.

The old courthouse in Dandridge will remain open for public use. It's already chock-full of historical artifacts and there's been some talk of using it as a museum.

Certain county offices will stay at the old courthouse. The new facility will be able to hold four different courts at once. The old facility could only hold two.

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