The budget currently funds 92 positions for corrections officers.
“A large portion of those had already been assimilated into the courts and patrol by a prior sheriff,” Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth said.
All of the budgeted 92 positions are filled; however, some of the funding is actually paying for salaries in other departments. This leaves no funding for hiring additional corrections officers without additional funding.
“When I first came into office, we were almost a whole shift short in corrections, a lot of people working overtime. We were running short constantly,” Ruth said.
He said he hired nine or 10 corrections officers when he first came into office.
First District Commissioner Ed Elkins said the Commission had put 92 positions in the budget when the current jail was built.
“And that’s the budget number that has been in there ever since,” Elkins said.
A Tennessee Correctional Institute inspection report said there were 92 full-time staff members in the jail in 2010. Ruth said the department did not have that many full-time people at that time.
In 2011, there were 73 full-time personnel included on the inspection report and there are 78 now.
“That’s what we had when we first moved into the jail,” Ruth said. “Now we have double the population.”
Seventh District Commissioner Mark Hall had requested the Commission hear from the sheriff about the number of correction officer positions filled. Hall was concerned low numbers of corrections officers may hurt the jail’s certification.
Ruth said this factor alone would not result in decertification, but could lead to greater liability for the county.
However, simply moving officers from patrolling to working in corrections would affect response times and efficiency of patrolling the county.
Fourth District Commission J. Adam Lowe said reports he had seen showed the justice center’s budget has increased by $500,000 since 2010 but the average number of inmates at the jail had seemed to remain steady, at a little more than 400.
“We’re serving about the same number of prisoners but we are providing more money to the justice center to service those prisoners,” Lowe said.
Gwen Beavers, director of the BCSO corrections bureau, said the jail was averaging 460 inmates. Ruth said this increase had come in the past few months. About 50 of these are federal inmates the facility has contracted to house and receive compensation for.
Lowe said he would like to see more information on cost to service inmates and in what specific areas the justice center budget had been increased. He said this is something the law enforcement and finance committees could look into. Fifth District commissioner Jeff Yarber said some increases had been because of increased medical care and expenses. Lowe said this only accounted for $10,000.