Wed
Feb 27 2008
09:08 am
By: WhitesCreek

So when a prospective business recruit comes to tour Cumberland County I guarantee they are taken by to see their schools. Even their old high school is pretty nice. When a potential business recruit comes to Roane County, does Leslie show them the new Jail?

The County Commission doesn't have money for schools.

They have money for Industrial parks in other counties, but not schools.

They can take tax money away from schools and give it to the Roane Alliance, but they don't have money for schools.

They have money for a Taj ma Jail that seems to be a bit over budget, but no money for schools.

Which Taj Ma Jail is that, WC?

I assume your witty play on words is meant to imply that the jail under construction is something luxurious. Am I mistaken about that? A reference to the Taj Mahal (link...) usually implies luxury and beauty to the "nth" degree. Hence, I am at a loss to totally understand the continued references to a Taj Ma Jail in Roane County.

A jail IS being built in Roane County, to be sure. I have seen the plans. I have attended meetings and heard the architects, the Commissioners, the Sheriff, and others talk about the jail. I assume from your continued references that imply luxury that you have not done any of that. It is not a luxurious accommodation. It does meet legal minimum standards and codes now in effect for such structures. It does not provide a luxurious environment for prisoners. Unless you consider adequate showers, a safer environment for corrections employees, better isolation capabilities for dangerous or sick inmates, better fire protection, etc to be luxuries, it ain't luxurious. Unless you consider a facility that can legally be certified as a jail fit to contain human beings a luxury, then this jail ain't luxurious.

You're a progressive, right? I was under the impression that progressive people understood the need - both legal and moral - to provide proper housing for the incarcerated, and to provide a safe environment for both the incarcerated and those whose job it is to supervise and control them. Perhaps I've been misinformed about what it means to be a progressive.

In any case, as you yourself once so rightly reminded me, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. And the simple facts in this issue are that the jail is not luxurious in any sense that could justify it being likened to the Taj Mahal. Whether you opine that it should have been built at all is another matter altogether - a matter of opinion to which you have a right. But the facts are the facts, and the thing is not a luxury nor a luxurious building.

Schools are not luxuries either. I will agree with you wholeheartedly on that issue. It is an unfortunate fact that our Commission had to make a decision and decide on priorities. I hate that. You hate that. You believe they made the wrong decision. I believe they made the right one. We each are correct in our own opinions and minds. They (Commissioners) fought in their own hearts and minds to arrive at the decision they did. At least give them credit for that, OK? None of 'em makes any money off the damn jail, WC. They aren't getting rich off that decision. It's not a decision born out of corruption, it's a decision born out of having to make a decision they knew was going to be wrong to somebody no matter which way they went.

You may think it was the wrong decision, and I may think it was the right decision, but that still boils down to an honest difference of opinion, an honest difference in philosophies, perhaps. Doesn't make me or you evil or good, nor does it make them evil or good. But the FACTS are that the jail, whether a good decision or a bad decision, isn't luxurious nor a luxury. It doesn't coddle either the inmates nor the employees. It merely meets legal standards and codes. As such it doesn't qualify for the epithet or pejorative allusion of Taj Ma Jail implying that it is luxurious or a luxury.

OK, I've said my piece, and am wearing my asbestos long-johns. Castigate me all you wish.

RB

It's the priorities

Or lack thereof. There were several jail solutions presented for far less than what was chosen. I was involved in one of them that served every interest and cost roughly a third of the current project.

My problem is with elected officials that spout the tired old "cut costs" whenever a school need is presented to them, but spend $2.5 million on an Industrial park in other counties without ever presenting a cost benefit analysis to the public, and choose the highest cost option for a jail solution.

...Particularly when part of the jail population numbers are driven by a bond process that runs contrary to Tennessee statute.

Arguing with their priorities...

I can understand. I don't think they always get priorities right, either. Alas, 'tis the nature of the beast. Damned choices. We should just have all the money we need and not have to choose which things get money and which don't. :-) It's frustrating. And I surely don't begrudge you your interest in schools as a priority.

RB

More money...

More money does not make better schools. There are school districts with smaller budgets and better schools.
More money, better buildings, and more school buildings do not make better education. It just makes the place where poor educational practices are going on, look better. The proof is in the pudding - the students produced - NOT in how nice things look. I agree that we often have our priorities screwed up, but lets put it in the prospective of - jail is decertified. The schools are not. There will be a need of a plan to house the incoming growth, but building a jail first, was spraying water on the current fire, not the one that will start tomorrow.

Wylamena

I like that, Wylamena!

"but building a jail first, was spraying water on the current fire, not the one that will start tomorrow."

Can I use it sometime?

RB

Only we actually used a fire

Only we actually used a fire hose on a candle.

on issue Wyla,

I know how bad the jail is/was. I went in it and looked around. I also counted its residents, as did another person with me. There were 38 guests. The jail census report for that date showed 74. On top of that, most of the inmates were there because they couldn't make bond or pay their fine, contrary to Tennessee statute, which requires non risk offenders be released on their own recognizance.

Most of the problems I saw were maintenence issues, although I would classify it as a very low quality facility. I think a new facility was definitely needed but not for the reasons given publicly. I felt like the jail staff deserved better and safer working conditions. The decertification issue was manageable at far less cost than the irrational and short sighted solution we are faced with now.

As for the schools and money meme, you repeat that old saw that more money doesn't mean good schools. I think that is simply not correct and vastly oversimplified. If you throw it away on bad solutions as we have done with the jail, then I agree. But if you have a comprehensive plan and a good budget, and good oversight in the process, you get good value for money spent.

One thing I am sure of is that we have a far more serious problem in our schools than we had in the jail and it affects a far more important part of our society...our children...our future.

Spending money doesn't guarantee good schools, but not spending money Does guarantee bad ones.

So lessee if I got this right...

"There were 38 guests. The jail census report for that date showed 74. "
They (Sheriff et al) were deliberately lying and fudging their reports? Did you ask anybody who was allowing you this detailed fact finding tour why there was such a discrepancy or what you were missing in your count?

"On top of that, most of the inmates were there because they couldn't make bond or pay their fine, contrary to Tennessee statute, which requires non risk offenders be released on their own recognizance."
They (Sheriff et al) were deliberately breaking the law? Did they also provide you with sufficient personal information on these inmates so that you knew the details of their charges, pending charges, reasons why they were in jail so you could make the legal determination that they were held illegally? If they did, what entitled you to that level of personal information about inmates whose privacy is as valuable to them as ours is to you and me? I've been on the Grand Jury making inspection of the jail and didn't get that kind of information.

"I think a new facility was definitely needed but not for the reasons given publicly."
The Sheriff(s) and the TCI officials lied about what was wrong with the jail? TCI officials lied when they told the Sheriff and the county what it would take to remedy the problems?

"One thing I am sure of is that we have a far more serious problem in our schools than we had in the jail"
The schools were about to be decertified for violation of numerous standards making them uninhabitable?

"The decertification issue was manageable at far less cost than the irrational and short sighted solution we are faced with now."
Irrational and short sighted is to patch and patch and still not solve the problem. They had gone - for years on end - as far as that tired pony would take them. Repair to the current facility was unfeasible in that it would cost more than reasonable and still not have sufficient room.

I've made more than one visit to the jail, under more than one administration, and I can verify the overcrowded-ness that was chronic. I was at that jail when it was first populated with inmates, and I know the processes that were used then, and I have seen the processes that were used by Sheriff Haggard, and what are used currently. I can't speak to the information you obtained. But I have significant and repeated experience of that jail (not as an inmate), and unless I'm lying, and unless they have been able to cover everything wrong every time I've been in that jail over the years, a new jail was needed as severely as they said it was. I've also talked with 2 folks from TCI, including the chief honcho whom I knew well when he was Sheriff in Putnam county.

I know I'll never sway your opinion, WC, about which was a more important expense. That's fine - we can be friends and have disagreeing opinions. I'm not at all prepared to accede, however, to the notion that the Sheriffs have been lying about their needs and practicing wholesale illegal detention with the approval of all judges and attorneys general. Once the very initial stages of incarceration are past, the only way a prisoner stays incarcerated is by instructions of a judge.

RB

Spending money...

WC,

I understand that "not spending money does guarantee bad ones," but we are not talking about NOT spending money. We are talking about MORE money. Look, when we start talking about education, you are preaching to the choir when you start talking about our need to improve the education our kids are getting. Not only have I seen my kid's struggle and tried to find alternatives, I have worked with kids that washed out of the school system and ended up in the Adult Ed program. It is my son's senior year. During Christmas break we had a long family talk about the fact that he was not going to be able to graduate with out some major help. We can not afford to pay for private tutoring. The school he was at could/would not offer us any options. I spoke with a teacher from another school in Roane County and she asked about study sessions. The classes he was failing did not offer study session. She said at the other school, study sessions were availible for every class if the student was willing to stay after school. So in the middle of his senior year, we moved him to another school in the county. The grades are coming up, he is feeling better about himself, and he will get to graduate this Spring. He is even talking about college for a change. He used to tell me he wasn't smart like me and was not cut out for college. Which caused much heartache for me.

WC, there is no more money at the new school than there was at the old school. There is a difference in educational philosophy. Again, no matter how you say it, more money does not make better schools. No matter how you argue it, theory does not outrank real life. I wish my family situation was the exception, but it is not. I do not envy the job that the school board has to do. I know it is hard to figure out all of the details, I know I do not have a solution, but I do know that the continual cricism of a jail that is a done deal instead of seeking a solution that works within the realm of reality in Roane County is a complete waste of energy. I just wonder what could happen if you focused all of this knowledge and energy on finding help for the school system instead of bashing the jail situation. Needed or not - it is a done deal. If we don't like it, we need to vote different next time around.

Again, energy focused on school alternatives - no wasting of energy by focusing on the jail that is a done deal.

Wylamena

Somehow I need to get folks

Somehow I need to get folks to realize that what I am trying to point out with our jail situation is that it is a symptom of misplaced priorities and bad management. It's a case of throwing money at a problem if ever there was one. The reason we don't have enough money for schools is that we overspend and underdeliver on our other County expenditures.

Maybe you can understand it if someone will answer a couple of questions that any project manager should have at his fingertips:

Is the jail project on schedule?

Is the jail project on budget?

Who is the Jail project manager for the County and where did he work previously?

Who is overseeing the Jail project manager?

I would say...

WC,

I would say the project is NOT on schedule, OVER budget, and I haven't a clue on the other two questions. The jail issues should have been addressed many moons ago. I agree that if it had been addressed when the problem started, we could have had a more sensible plan. I agree that as with many things in today's society the answer is often throw money at it. That is exactly my point about the school system. Throwing money at it will not fix the lack of commitment to mediocre students or the failure to meet the needs of "gap" students. I would say the following quote is very accurate except for one thing...

"The reason we don't have enough money for schools is that we overspend and underdeliver on our other County expenditures. "

... the problem is in all areas, even the schools. I am not saying that the jail issue has no problems. I am just saying it is a symptom of the sickness, and the constant cry for more money in the schools is a cry for a band aid when we have cut an artery.

What is wrong with expecting a change in philosophy to take place while we wait on the money? What is wrong with saying that our kids need educated whether we get the money or not? Since when does watching a video take the place of teaching?

Point to the jail situation as less than ideal, but don't blame the school situation on it. The schools have been in trouble for quite a while, don't believe me, contact the state and ask how many adults in Roane County lack high school diplomas or GEDs. We could fill our current schools with them. More shocking is when we can't fill the good jobs in Roane County with Roane Countians because they can't pass the pre-employment screening test that requires less than High School level to pass. The trouble with the schools will not be resolved with money.

Wylamena

RB, Don't put words on me, please.

I have never ever said anything related to misconduct by a Sherrif.
Frankly, I very much appreciate Jack Stockton and supported him before and after the election.

I stand by what I said, and I can back it up with the Jail's own documents and reports. Gerald Largen has the same info and has published details.

This part of what you said is true:

Once the very initial stages of incarceration are past, the only way a prisoner stays incarcerated is by instructions of a judge.

Sorry, WC...

I didn't mean to put words in your mouth.

I haven't seen details Gerald has published. I have seen lots of venom from Gerald about the jail, and some things that weren't accurate that all he would have had to do to get accurate was ask.

I figured the only way the jail records could say one thing and there actually be another number that was correct was for malfeasance to have occurred. But I'm happy to be wrong. Truth be told, I never suspected malfeasance by the Sheriff.

I thought your mention of keeping prisoners in violation of state statute had to do with malfeasance on the part of whoever was keeping the prisoners. Must have been only the judges' malfeasance.

I maintain that a visit to the jail, with whatever records may have been offered isn't the same as being aware, over a period of years, significant details about what was going on and wasn't going on with regard to the state of the jail.

But, alas, you and I are probably wasting readers' time on this, as we aren't likely to agree. And please don't tell me Gerald has never written with venom. You may agree with him more than I do (although I agree with him fairly often), but I don't see how anybody that reads him can say he hasn't written with venom at times. Gerald is an old family friend, BTW. He has changed over the years - as folks often do with age. (I've known him for over 50 years, and am qualified to make that statement.)

Ah well... what's the old song? "And the beat goes on...."

Happy Thursday!

RB

Careful RB, you're stepping

Careful RB, you're stepping in high poop when you criticize the great crud merchant on here! WC don't like you dissing his man!

Oh come on...

You know I don't mind anybody criticizing anybody, including me. What I don't like is unsupported name calling like you just posted. Give us specifics or take it somewhere else.

Not only does Gerald have his columns fact checked before they are published by his own folks...They get fact checked by the Roane County News.

You don't like the facts? I totally understand.

No facts? Just use the word

No facts? Just use the word "surmise." Right?

Well, let's dispense with

Well, let's dispense with the Gerald Largen part of this by me saying that I have yet to catch Gerald in anything close to a lie. I think he is at that point in life that he can speak truth to power and if that pisses them off...fine by him.

Let's have specifics or drop it.

Our jail and bonding system seems to have been set up some years ago and current office holders may simply be too bogged down to spend a lot of energy on reforms, but I hope they get around to this task.

The jail records show inmates checked in at 11:45 pm and out at 12:15 AM as having spent TWO days incarcerated. I have the records to demonstrate that, but it must be noted that this was from the previous regime. At any rate, this practice greatly inflates the jail population.

TN statute states that any offender who poses no flight risk should be released on recognizance. I have discussed this with a couple of folks and not one person in this county can tell me a good reason why every single person booked into the Roane County jail has to post a bond.

I have not talked with Judge Jeff Wicks about this. I have the utmost respect for him and I think he inherited the system. I hope he moves to help correct this at some point. The inside word I get on Jeff is that he is a very hard worker and that Roane County more than gets the value of his salary.

Well by golly, we can agree on SOMETHING!

"I have the utmost respect for him and I think he inherited the system. I hope he moves to help correct this at some point. The inside word I get on Jeff is that he is a very hard worker and that Roane County more than gets the value of his salary."

From all accounts I have heard and from the little I have seen, this is a hard-core fact.

Regarding bail:
40-11-102. Bailable offenses. — Before trial, all defendants shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses where the proof is evident or the presumption great. After conviction, defendants are bailable as provided by, § 40-11-113, § 40-11-143 or both.
40-11-104. Authority to release defendants. — Any magistrate may release the defendant on the defendant's own recognizance pursuant to § 40-11-115 or § 40-11-116 or admit the defendant to bail pursuant to § 40-11-117 or § 40-11-122 at any time prior to or at the time the defendant is bound over to the grand jury. The trial court may release the defendant on the defendant's own recognizance pursuant to § 40-11-115, admit the defendant to bail under § 40-11-116, § 40-11-117 or § 40-11-122, or alter bail or other conditions of release pursuant to § 40-11-144 at any time prior to conviction or thereafter, except where contrary to law.
40-11-115. Release on recognizance or unsecured bond — Factors considered. (a) Any person charged with a bailable offense may, before a magistrate authorized to admit the person to bail, be ordered released pending trial on the person's personal recognizance or upon the execution of an unsecured appearance bond in an amount specified by the magistrate.
(b) In determining whether or not a person shall be released as provided in this section and that a release will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required, the magistrate shall take into account:
(1) The defendant's length of residence in the community;
(2) The defendant's employment status and history, and financial condition;
(3) The defendant's family ties and relationships;
(4) The defendant's reputation, character and mental condition;
(5) The defendant's prior criminal record, including prior releases on recognizance or bail;
(6) The identity of responsible members of the community who will vouch for defendant's reliability;
(7) The nature of the offense and the apparent probability of conviction and the likely sentence, insofar as these factors are relevant to the risk of nonappearance; and
(8) Any other factors indicating the defendant's ties to the community or bearing on the risk of willful failure to appear.
40-11-116. Conditions on release. —
(a) If a defendant does not qualify for a release upon recognizance under § 40-11-115, then the magistrate shall impose the least onerous conditions reasonably likely to assure the defendant's appearance in court.
(b) If conditions on release are found necessary, the magistrate may impose one (1) or more of the following conditions:
(1) Release the defendant into the care of some qualified person or organization responsible for supervising the defendant and assisting the defendant in appearing in court. This supervisor shall maintain close contact with the defendant, assist the defendant in making arrangements to appear in court, and, where appropriate, accompany the defendant to court. The supervisor shall not be required to be financially responsible for the defendant, nor to forfeit money in the event the defendant fails to appear in court. The board of probation and parole and its officers are not to be considered an appropriate qualified organization or person under this section;
(2) Impose reasonable restrictions on the activities, movements, associations and residences of the defendant; and/or
(3) Impose any other reasonable restriction designed to assure the defendant's appearance, including, but not limited to, the deposit of bail pursuant to § 40-11-117.

Did a fairly extensive search of TCA and could not find the statute REQUIRING ROR. Flight risk is not something that can be proven a priori, and I think you will find practice in Tennessee to be fairly uniform in requiring bail of some sort rather than ROR for the majority of defendants. The permissive language allows the court system to set up norms for practice, and the norm of requiring bail is not something that violates any statute I could find. The language I found was all permissive and none mandatory concerning ROR. And it sets the conditions to be considered for ROR.

But that's another discussion :-)

RB

The Statute is referenced

The Statute is referenced and quoted in one of Gerald's columns. I'll see if I can find it.

Now that I read it:

(a) If a defendant does not qualify for a release upon recognizance under § 40-11-115, then the magistrate shall impose the least onerous conditions reasonably likely to assure the defendant's appearance in court.

I read that to say that bail shall be required ONLY in cases where a defendant doesn't qualify for recognizance. My legal folks interpret it the same way.

I absolutely don't see how it can be read to say that a monetary bond must be imposed. I read this to say that monetary bond shall be a secondary resort and even then should be the lowest amount necessary.

Our Judges require a monetary bond of every single offender at present. This serves to create two situations...An unnecessary monetary burden on "presumed innocent" defendants who are not a flight riisk, and an unnecessary burden on Roane County when defendants who cannot afford to pay bond are incarcerated even though they aren't a flight risk, and create no threat to the community.

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