Bradley County will have some idea of what it will take to construct a workhouse detention facility within 90 days.
The Workhouse Committee voted unanimously Thursday to instruct County Mayor G. Gary Davis and Rich Kienlen, director of the Bradley County Misdemeanor Probation Department, to prepare a request for proposal with responses due back within that three-month period.
The request will be for two options: a 64-bed facility with a connector area to allow an additional 64-bed pod to be added at a later date and a full-size, 128-bed facility.
A workhouse would house misdemeanor offenders, child support offenders, nonviolent state offenders and those who are required to spend 24-hours-in and 24-hours-out cycles.
Kienlen said Circuit Court Judge Magistrate Dewayne Bunch deals with 99 percent of the child support issues in terms of incarceration issues.
He presented a letter to the committee from Bunch saying the docket that comes before him in Bradley County includes 200 to 250 cases per month.
“Approximately a fourth to a third of these cases are before the court facing incarceration,” Bunch wrote.
Commissioner Ed Elkins said the workhouse gives a “remedy by trying to put some teeth into the collection [process] without putting the person in a hard lockup where they can’t pay.”
It is for that reason Kienlen said Bunch was very much in favor of the workhouse concept.
It was mentioned there is not currently any incarceration for child support issues due to overcrowding in the jail.
“I thought they fixed the overcrowding when they transferred all those state prisoners,” Elkins said.
Kienlen confirmed the transfers, but said the jail now houses 458 prisoners which is 50 over capacity.
He expressed frustration with the contacts at the County Technical Assistance Service with whom he had been in communication since December asking for an assessment.
He also relayed the calendar of events where meetings, data and communications change hands several times.
The final communication from Jim Hart, CTAS jail management consultant, on April 4 stated the workhouse was “a county project. I look at my role as facilitating the process, not doing the work and putting together a report for the commission to look at as you have previously suggested.”
“I feel like he’s dragging his feet,” Kienlen said. “I don’t know why someone with 40 years’ experience, given the information he has [can’t produce the assessment in the time frame we requested].”
He said 110 state prisoners were shipped out in September and October, yet the jail remains over capacity.
“It struck me as being kind of odd that following our meeting and decisions to vote to put the workhouse under the jurisdiction and authority of the county mayor, all of a sudden they didn’t have a crowding problem anymore,” Elkins said. “I didn’t see anything in the news media about the state having turned a whole lot of prisoners loose to free up those beds in the state facilities. Maybe it was just coincidental on the timing, but it seems like it was an effort to say ‘Since the Sheriff’s [Office] is not going to run it, we don’t really need it. We got plenty of room.’”
He added for the period of time the state prisoners were not here “it cost Bradley County a lot of revenue.”
“We don’t even break even on those, but having something there is better than not having anything,” Elkins said.
Elkins broached the idea of getting an RFP for the 64-bed project, but further discussion determined it best to get both options developed into the successful motion.
The committee plans to meet again on July 17.