Watson OK with county workhouse
by BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Aug 08, 2014 | 1726 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bradley County Sheriff-elect Eric Watson said Thursday he would abide by and work with whatever the County Commission decided concerning a possible workhouse facility and program.

But, 10th District Attorney General Steve Crump said he does not support using such a facility for housing federal inmates for the revenue that would follow them.

Both statements came during a meeting of the county workhouse committee.

However, the committee decided in the end there were too many changes going on in the county administration’s immediate future to make any decisions now, and decided there was a reboot needed.

The unanimous vote left the decision for a date in the future when Watson has officially taken the mantle as the leader of county law enforcement and the new County Commission can take its place and name two new members to the committee.

Commission members Brian Smith and Jeff Morelock will not return in their roles due to Smith not seeking re-election and Morelock’s defeat in the general election Tuesday.

Local attorney James Logan, who had participated in the beginnings of the workhouse idea, returned to reiterate his feeling the idea was a positive one for Bradley County.

“My goal was to change lives in Bradley County,” Logan said. “You’ve seen our Juvenile department cut the recidivism rate in half. You’ve seen other things accomplished based on how you treat prisoners and what you do to them — how they earn their freedom.”

Logan added if such programs reduce crime and recidivism in the state, “we will not have paid enough [for these programs].”

He said he had seen successful programs across the state which used a workhouse program.

Crump said he was in support of a workhouse program and his office would remain supportive.

However, he debated the possibility the workhouse would become “extra jail space for people from Kansas or New York or Georgia or North Carolina” as a way to fill the revenue page with monies from housing federal inmates.

“The whole reason I’m supportive of this program is that more people who break the law in this county — I’ve got a place to keep them from society so they can serve a sentence,” Crump said. “I’m not going to be concerned any longer with terms of sentencing with whether or not the jail is full or not full or overcrowded. That’s not my issue.”

He said his office would ask for sentences related to the crime, and “what’s reasonable and just under the circumstances.”

“If that runs afoul of something else, that’s not going to be my issue,” Crump said. “That’s not going to be my problem. For too long we have done that. By falling into the trap of not sending a person to jail just because our jail is full, we have allowed people to create a revolving door. I am not for us getting federal inmates here, I am for us taking the people in this community who have broken the law in this community and who owe this community a debt to be in that system and in that facility.”

During the last committee meeting, there was some confusion over Watson’s stand on the workhouse.

“I met with Mayor (D. Gary) Davis on Monday, and discussed whose responsibilities this should be under,” Watson said. “I told him that we don’t care to accept the responsibility at all under the new administration. If that is the way the Commission decides to do this, we’d be more than happy to take it.”

He added since his term does not begin until Sept. 1, he has not been kept up to speed on all of the details of the proposal.

“If they are going to make this decision, they are going to have to give us time to come up with an operational budget and time for my staff to actually sit down and look this over,” Watson said.

He said if the county chooses to initiate a workhouse program, “we don’t need to piecemeal it together.”

Crump made the motion for the tabling discussion, which was unanimously approved.

Committee members decided to meet Oct. 23 at 10 a.m., in the Commission meeting room.