Delayed release of report on Blount County Jail overcrowding raises questions

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MARYVILLE (WATE) – A study on overcrowding at the Blount County Jail is sparking questions about why this study wasn’t made public, nearly a year after it was completed.

Criticisms in the report include that the jail is severely and chronically overcrowded and the county has become dependent on money it gets for renting out jail beds to house state and the federal prisoners.Web Extra: Read the full report [PDF]

The report also shows the county doesn’t have a high enough property tax to support justice costs, and the county uses its jail to collect debts for court and other fees more vigorously than other jurisdictions.

Blount County Commission and the sheriff’s office asked the institute for law and policy planning to put this report together. It was finished last may.

The report’s author put out a scathing open memo this week, restating many criticisms and stating that the jail serves as a debtor’s prison. He also notes that his group has been waiting for a year to make a presentation to commission.Web Extra: Read the memo [PDF]

The presentation supposed to happen Wednesday night, but the meeting that wound up being canceled.

Commission Chairman Jeff Headrick has not responded on why.

Commissioner Tona Monroe, who posted the study on her website, said she’s troubled by the cancellation and says it’s obvious that some county officials aren’t happy with the conclusions.

The sheriff’s office hasn’t responded for comment, but the county mayor’s office issued a news release in which Mayor Ed Mitchell calls the report “long on theory and short on specifics.” He cals the move to release this report to the media before county officials unprofessional and offensive.Web Extra:Read Mayor Ed Mitchell’s full response [PDF]

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