Workhouse still has inmate beds available

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 7/10/18

Nearly a year since the opening of the Brian K. Smith Workhouse at the Bradley County Justice Center, the success of the initiative was a topic of discussion at Monday’s work session of the Bradley County Commission.

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Workhouse still has inmate beds available

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Nearly a year since the opening of the Brian K. Smith Workhouse at the Bradley County Justice Center, the success of the initiative was a topic of discussion at Monday’s work session of the Bradley County Commission.

Bradley County Commissioner Thomas Crye said the workhouse had a $3 million price tag.

“We had set goals for the use of it when we entered into it,” Crye said. He added the workhouse is a 128-bed facility with a current population of 72; 17 inmates are on work release.

“We are accomplishing one of our goals,” Crye said, noting that income generated by the workhouse is meeting debt service commitments and staffing costs.

“We’re trying to salvage families,” Crye added.

Rich Kienlen, who heads the Bradley County Misdemeanor Probation program housed at the workhouse, spoke to the commission about the initiative. He believes overall “it’s been very successful.”

“Obviously we’d love to have more referrals,” Kienlen said. He added that no judges or magistrates have turned down any workhouse applications.

Kienlen also presented a breakdown of referrals, rent costs, workhouse inmate and state inmate revenues for August 2017 to June 2018. The highest month for referrals was August 2017 with 20; the lowest month was March 2018 with four referrals. Overall, 116 inmates have been referred to the workhouse. Monthly rent for the workhouse is $1,300, and the cost for 11 months is $14,300..

For the past 11 months, revenue from workhouse inmates totals $53,051.75 and revenue from state inmates totals $786,879. The overall total collected is $854,230.75.

Kienlen said it will be “a constant process” to keep the workhouse at the forefront for judges and the district attorney’s office so that more referrals can be made.

Bradley County Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber said other counties want to learn more about the workhouse to possibly initiate their own, similar programs. He added he believes education and communication are important among jail personnel and the inmates regarding who is eligible to go to the workhouse. Yarber said he believes the workhouse can truly help rehabilitate inmates.

“I believe we’re making progress,” Yarber said.

However, Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls said, “I don’t see that.” Rawls said the workhouse is paying the bills if it is an extension of the jail, but as a workhouse it’s “trending the wrong way.”

Crye thanked 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump for assigning inmates serving time for non-payment of child support to the workhouse. Crump replied that he is not certain how many inmates from the “civil child support side” have been referred.

“That’s a place where I think we can push forward to get those numbers up,” he said.

Crump said early on his office looked at how to maximize participation in the workhouse.

“We are still pushing hard from our end to get folks in,” Crump said, adding he is looking to expand into Polk County, with inmates there possibly being assigned to the workhouse.

Crump said he believes it would be good to reach out to local defense attorneys with information about the workhouse. He said his office will try to address this through the Bradley County Bar Association.

Yarber encouraged the commission to be cautious at looking at 11 months of workhouse operation for a trend.

“You’re going to need a few years’ analysis,” he said. He also noted it is important to maintain a push for the use of the workhouse.

“We need this in Bradley County,” Yarber said of the rehabilitative measure.

Rawls clarified that his “trend” comment was only based on Yarber’s comment about the workhouse making progress. He added there may need to be a “remotivational” push toward more referrals.

“We’ll look at ways to do that,” Crump said.

Bradley County Commissioner Bill Winters asked how many inmates already serving sentences at the Bradley County Jail could be moved to the workhouse. Yarber said he is not sure.

Bradley County Commissioner Milan Blake said when the county started the workhouse discussion it was always the expectation “it would take a couple of years” to get the facility running. He added 116 referrals “is a good start in one year.”


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