Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan took to Facebook to voice his concerns for the new jail location.
Hamblen County commissioners approved the site of the new jail in March. It would be built on a 2.3-acre property adjacent to the current jail and justice center.
Jarnigan said in the Facebook post that past “band-aid fixes” cost taxpayers a lot of money, and building solely a new jail would do the same.
Jarnigan said he knows a new jail is necessary. He described the current jail as a dungeon.
The current jail, which is below the justice center, doesn’t have enough space for the number of inmates.
“(In 2018) the record was peaked at 474 inmates. That’s the most that the Hamblen County Jail had at one time. We only had 255 beds,” Jarnigan said.
Jarnigan said, though, that they are in serious need of a new justice center as well.
He pointed out numerous cracks inside and outside the over 40-year-old building. Some had been patched up and painted over, but the outsides cracks in the bricks were still very noticeable.
“Would you feel safe working here day after day with the earthquakes we’re having in East Tennessee?” Jarnigan asked.
He also said the annex, where female inmates stay, isn’t up to code.
“To repair the existing workhouse and the two story annex, for the overflow of the new 500 bed jail, will be very costly. Upon the completion of TCI’s (Tennessee Corrections Institute) inspection, the roof and walls of the two story annex and the roof of the workhouse must be replaced with fire resistance materials for certification to house inmates. This will be very expensive to the taxpayers,” Jarnigan posted on Facebook.