Hamilton County Sheriff responds to safety & security concerns from grand jury

Hamilton Co. Detention Facility grand jury concerns - WTVC.png

Three times a year, people who serve on a Hamilton County grand jury evaluate the conditions and overall experience of the jail, courthouse, juvenile detention center and Silverdale corrections facility.

On Monday, the grand jury's report revealed serious safety and security concerns.

“There's never an excuse on each case that's a failure. We [must] find out how it happened and how to prevent it again,” said Sheriff Jim Hammond.

We wanted to dig deeper into the specific concern about the security at the courthouse.

The grand jury writes: "one major concern was the number of people that come in and were able to bypass security altogether.”

It's something that we, as media members, also notice as we walk through the metal detector and the alarm sounds.

“There are certain people you recognize and you know they're in there doing business everyday - they get a pass to come through there. Is that something we should not do? I don't know. That's political football,” Hammond added.

We showed the report to people walking into the courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

Many of them also notice that some people get free passes to walk right through.

“Discriminating kind of because it's like if I was to put on a suit and tie than I would probably be better rather than street clothes going in,” said Javarious Langston, citizen.

Over at Silverdale corrections facility, grand jury members reported there is 1 officer to 64 male inmates and 2 officers to 256 female inmates. They write, "cell blocks could easily be taken over by inmates at any given time."

“One of the biggest problems we have in this industry is getting people who will actually work these jobs,” said Hammond

Sheriff Hammond says this isn't just an issue in Hamilton County. He says it's a problem all across the state of Tennessee.

“We constantly have turnover in a correctional facility - whether it's the workhouse or the jail,” he said.

And he says that gets worse depending on the state of the economy.

“When the economy's doing well, people don't want those kind of jobs. When the economy's not doing well, people who can't find jobs anywhere else are coming there,” Hammond added.

See the full grand jury report at the link here.

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