Workhouse opened

Facility to help alleviate jail overcrowding

By ALLEN MINCEY Staff Writer
Posted 7/28/17

In an effort to help alleviate the overcrowding at the Bradley County Jail, approval was given in 2016 to build an adjacent workhouse for non-violent offenders.

On Thursday, the official …

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Workhouse opened

Facility to help alleviate jail overcrowding

Posted

In an effort to help alleviate the overcrowding at the Bradley County Jail, approval was given in 2016 to build an adjacent workhouse for non-violent offenders.

On Thursday, the official ribbon cutting on that facility took place, and should be housing inmates by Monday.

The workhouse is named after Chief Deputy Brian K. Smith, a longtime veteran of law enforcement in Cleveland and Bradley County. He said he was honored to have the facility named after him, but the main reason for the structure is to help the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office provide as close to adequate housing for those convicted of crimes, and allowed to serve at the workhouse through sentencing approved by local judges.

The workhouse will also be the new home for the Bradley County Misdemeanor Probation program which had previously been located on the first floor of the Bradley County Courthouse.

“Probation started in 2003 ... and I had a little 8-by-8 ‘cell’ with four officers to work out of, and after 14 years, this is the culmination of a lot of hard work and support,” said Rich Keinlen, who heads the county’s probation office. “Now, the real work begins.”

That work is not limited to the new probation offices, but to the Corrections Division of the sheriff’s office.

“We have had a few bridges to cross, which you have any time you build on to an existing building,” said Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis. “We came in on time and I am glad to turn this over to Rich and to Allan (Walsh) to operate the building, and continue to pay for itself as we go along.”

Walsh is the supervisor for the workhouse. Like Smith, he too is a veteran of law enforcement, working about 30 years with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.

He said that he expects to have individuals housed in the facility by Monday. The workhouse will be adequate for just over 120 inmates, with those housed there allowed to leave for work during the day and return to serve their time in the evening.

“It will be providing some bed space and hopefully get some people working and continuing to work instead of incarcerating all of the time,” Davis added.

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson said the project began through a letter written by Alvin Word, the grand jury foreman in 2012, and “this process began.”

“The groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 12, 2016, and the capacity to this workhouse is 128 non-violent, low-security, inmates and is another great resource to our corrections division,” Watson said. “These inmates will now work in our community while fulfilling their court-mandated jail sentences.”

Walsh said during a tour of the facility Thursday that not only will those specified by the courts be housed there, but trustees for the BCSO will also be staying in the facility. Trustees for the sheriff’s office perform labor for the county, under supervision, and will remain in that capacity even as those non-violent offenders are housed in the facility.

Additonal corrections officers have been hired by the sheriff’s office to help operate the workhouse, which is broken into military-type barracks that house close to 50 inmates at a time. The beds are styled as bunks, there are bathroom facilities in the barracks, and stainless steel tables for the inmates. Windows are set where the inmates can be monitored 24 hours a day, if necessary.

The workhouse is located adjacent to the jail facility, with access to the normal cells that house inmates. There is adequate security doors that separate the regular jail with the workhouse, and that separate the workhouse portion housing the inmates and the probation offices.

Several of the judges who will be making decisions on who will be able to serve their sentences in the workhouse were present at Thursday’s ribbon cutting. Representatives of both the 10th Judicial District Attorney and Public Defender’s office were also present, as were members of the Bradley County Commission and several who serve with the BCSO.

Many members of Smith’s family were in attendance also.

Smith began his tenure in law enforcement in 1980, retired in 2012 and returned in 2014 as chief deputy for the sheriff’s office. He has also served on the Bradley County Commission in the past.

“He served as the chair of the Law Enforcement committee, Education committee, Juvenile Justice committee and the Workhouse Study committee, and Brian’s time on the Workhouse Study committee, along with other members in the committee, is one of the main reasons that this workhouse has come to where it is today,” Watson said.

Smith was visibly moved by the recognition bestowed by the sheriff’s office and county commission in naming the workhouse after him.

“I want to thank the Bradley County Commission and the sheriff’s office for this honor,” Smith said. “I have been honored to serve as (the BCSO) chief for the past two years.

“My law enforcement family, and family, mean so much to me and I am honored to have this workhouse named after me,” he added.

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