County jail to undergo re-inspection by state for deficiencies

Published 4:04 pm Thursday, July 5, 2018

County officials are preparing for an inspection of the local jail by state officials in two weeks, and Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said he is confident the facility will pass the review.

Since Tuesday evening, the Elizabethton Star has received several calls and questions from citizens regarding postings on social media reporting that the Carter County Detention Center had recently failed an inspection by the state. Some who called said they heard the jail was at risk of losing its state certification and not being able to house prisoners while others reported seeing posts that the jail had already lost its certification.

On Thursday, the Elizabethton Star contacted the Tennessee Corrections Institute, the state agency tasked with inspecting and certifying adult detention facilities in Tennessee, regarding the certification status for the Carter County Detention Center. Through a public records request, the Elizabethton Star received a copy of the report from the most recent TCI inspection of the jail, which occurred on May 25.

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According to TCI, the Carter County Detention Center is currently certified through the agency, but deficiencies at the facility were noted during the May 25 visit by detention facility specialists.

The Elizabethton Star also obtained a copy of a letter from TCI Executive Director Beth Ashe to Lunceford dated June 5 informing him of the inspection results.

“The inspection revealed that this facility does not meet all the applicable minimum standards,” Ashe said in the letter. “A re-inspection will be conducted on or about July 19, 2018, to determine if the deficiencies have been corrected. The final report will be presented to the Board of Control at its next meeting.”

The following deficiencies are among those listed in the report completed by TCI Detention Facility Specialists Tonya Stacey, Robert Kane, and Gwen Beavers:

• fire suppression system had not been serviced since February 2017

• fire drills are not being completed on a quarterly basis

• the facility does not have evacuation plans posted within the cell areas

• work orders are not being completed for repairs or broken items on a consistent basis

• facility needs to provide pre-service orientation for all new employees

• disciplinary waivers are not being signed on a consistent basis

• lights throughout the facility need to be replaced

• vents throughout the facility need to be cleaned

• cell doors need to be repainted throughout the facility

• caulking around one window needs to be replaced

• recreation is not being logged and/or completed on a consistent basis

• a criminal history check is not being documented during the booking process

• the facility is not conducting or logging security checks within an hourly basis on an irregular schedule

• suicide watch logs not in compliance with policy and procedures or medical protocol

The inspection report also lists there was a deficiency found in facility security, but the exact nature of the deficiency has been redacted from the public report for safety and security reasons.

The Elizabethton Star contacted Lunceford regarding the inspection documents from TCI as well as concerns from residents who had seen the social media reports stating the jail had failed the TCI inspection.

“We have not failed our inspection,” Lunceford said. “This happens every year.”

Lunceford compared the TCI inspection process to a contractor for a construction project working on a punch list. After an initial visit and inspection of the facility, Lunceford said he and his staff are given a “punch list” of items to correct before a final inspection is completed.

“That is the process every year,” Lunceford said, adding a majority of jails are found to have deficiencies on their initial inspection.

Many of the issues listed in the report deal with proper documentation, according to Lunceford. “It’s paperwork on a lot of those issues,” he said.

For example, Lunceford pointed to the deficiency finding regarding quarterly fire drills.

“They were doing the drills, they just weren’t documenting them properly,” Lunceford said. “We went back and reviewed the cameras and the drills were being done.”

Lunceford said all of the issues noted by TCI in the inspection report have been corrected, and some were already being addressed at the time of the initial inspection.

“I am confident that on the 19th no deficiencies will be found during our inspection,” Lunceford said.

To see a copy of the full public report from TCI regarding the May 25 inspection of the Carter County Detention Center, click here: TCI Jail Inspection Report – May 2018