Committee approves contract to house pre-trial federal inmates

Published 6:52 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Carter County may soon begin housing pre-trial federal detainees if a contract between the county and the U.S. Department of Justice is approved.

On Wednesday, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford and Carter County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy James Parrish presented the contract to the county’s Financial Management Committee for approval.

In recent years, the Sheriff’s Office has housed a number of state inmates through a contract and at the request of the Carter County Commission to bring revenue into the county.

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Carter County currently has a contract with the Tennessee Department of Corrections to house a minimum of 20 inmates. The per diem rate the state paid the county per inmate has been $37 for some time. Parrish informed the committee the county had renegotiated that rate to $39 per day per inmate.

The contract requires the county to house 20 inmates, Parrish said, adding the county holds the Sheriff’s Office to meet a benchmark of bringing in $900,000 in revenue through the housing of state inmates.

“In order to meet that $900,000 we are required to keep around 70 state inmates,” Parrish said.

The Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the U.S. Marshals service regarding the possibility of housing federal pre-trial detainees under a contract agreement similar to one with the state, according to Parrish. The closest federal penitentiary to the U.S. District Courthouse in Greeneville is in Kentucky. The U.S. Department of Justice, through the Marshals Service, has agreements with local detention centers in northeast Tennessee, and neighboring North Carolina and Virginia to house pre-trial inmates.

Parrish said the Sheriff’s Office had negotiated a $60 per diem base rate with the federal government for the housing of inmates. The federal government would pick up 100 percent of any medical expenses the inmate would incur while housed in Carter County. Under the terms, the federal government would pay a $19 per hour rate to cover the use of a county officer should that officer have to transport the federal inmate to medical treatment outside the facility, to court, or to another detention center.

“They asked us to consider keeping 40 to 50 pre-trial federal inmates,” Parrish said.

The current detention center has a capacity of around 300 inmates, Parrish told the committee. “Our average daily population for the past year was 210 inmates,” he said. “We have the capacity.”

According to Parrish, the plan would be to house the 20 state inmates under the terms of the contract with TDOC instead of the 70 currently being housed. The county would then house 50 pre-trial federal inmates instead of the additional state inmates. This plan would bring in more revenue to the county without increasing the jail’s overall average population.

The federal contract will be for a term of 48 months with renegotiation to begin in the third year of the contract and also requires a 30-day notification if either party intends to end the contract.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey made a motion to forward the contract on to the full Carter County Commission for approval. Charles VonCannon provided the second for the motion, which then passed unanimously on a vote.