KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For months now we’ve been going behind the scenes at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility in Knox County, meeting inmates and showing you programs designed to keep them from coming back to jail.
Now, we take you to where it all begins, right after an arrest is made.
During our tour, we were able to capture the process in real-time, as it was happening.
Lt. Samantha Hill is the intake release director for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. She’s been here for 23 years and has seen it all.
“It’s never the same day twice,” Hill said. “So it really doesn’t get old because you never know what you’re gonna see when you come in.”
We were allowed to see some of the items suspects have smuggled in over the years, from tiny knives disguised as lipstick to other weapons that are small but deadly. The sheriff’s office displays dozens of odd items they’ve confiscated; everything but drugs.
“Last year, we charged 85 people with bringing contraband into the facility,” Hill said. “Those are gonna be drugs, drug paraphernalia, syringes, that kind of thing.”
Our cameras capturing an inmate being brought in from Anderson County.
Because he’s being held for the U.S. Marshalls Service, we can’t reveal anything about him.
“So this individual has been transferred from another facility. He’s probably coming in because he either had outstanding warrants on him, or we’ve received a court order,” Hill said.
We were allowed to follow him through the intake process.
From the pat-down to the removal of shoes and socks as part of the initial search, which could get more intense if charges warrant.
“Not everybody that comes to jail is strip-searched. You have to have a drug charge, a felony charge,” Hill said.
All inmates are assigned a crate for their personal property. Each one is numbered and stored.
Lt. Hill says 22,688 people were processed through the intake center last year. Each one is assessed to see if they qualify for any of the programs offered to help them in not coming back. The jail offers GED, addiction, and child-support work programs.
The inmates are separated into holding cells for men and for women. Contrary to popular belief, they get to make more than one phone call that first 24 hours. They get two, sometimes more if they can pay.
Everyone under the same roof, each with a different story to tell.
“From public intoxication to first-degree murder,” Hill said.
The Knox County Sheriff’s Office says of those arrested, 77% are men, 23% are women.
Twenty-five to 30% have been diagnosed with a mental illness and at least 90% have an addiction.