Stop the Proposed $40+Million Madison County Jail Expansion
Education over incarceration! Expand Schools NOT Jails!
The Madison County Commissioners are proposing to spend over $40 million on new jail cells at the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex. Those commissioners in favor of the expansion will lead you to believe that there is a severe issue with overcrowding. The reality is that more beds will equal more inmates.
The jail has 303 certified beds, but is consistently over 315 inmates. That is only a overcrowding of 11 INMATES on average. Are they really proposing to spend tens of millions of dollars to house less than 20 people?!?!? The county is currently under a plan of action from the Tennessee Corrections Institute and must come up with a plan, just a plan, to reduce the population in the jail. Nowhere in the plan of action from the Tennessee Corrections Institute does it mandate additional beds be added. However, the idea of more than DOUBLING the current facility to 720 beds is on the table along with having space to relocate the City Court and several county offices.
We say to the County Commission, rather than spending $40+ million on jail construction, focus should be on investing in preventative services that will keep people out of jail , things like job training for youth & the under-employed, mental health & substance abuse treatment centers, and along with re-entry programs for people returning home from incarceration. In the wake of the 5 schools closing, the County Commission should partner with the School Board to ensure that the school system has adequate funding to provide a quality education in well-maintained schools, with classrooms filled with the latest technology and most effective teachers and staff.
We, residents of Jackson-Madison County, request a one-year moratorium on any decisions related to the spending on the jail expansion/renovation project. We believe that County Commission could do much more to reduce the population of the jail, thus eliminating over-crowding. We request that the County Commission pursue other actionable items that will truly improve our quality of life and strengthen our community.
1. There is still a lot of work to be done on the issue of recidivism, something that has not been addressed during any of the committee presentations regarding the jail overcrowding . The minutes and notes from meetings of the last two years do not indicate consideration of recidivism and how we might reduce it.
2. The County has not released a comprehensive jail dataset to track the issue of recidivism, and design effective re-entry programs. In its absence, it is difficult to know who is in jail, why, for how long, and what alternatives could be used to reduce the jail population.
3. Did the County Commission investigate whether there is a correlation between the employment status and violation of probation for lack of court fines/ probation fees payment which increase the inmate population?
5. Did the County Commission analyze the inmate population in Madison County jail, especially whether systemic biases in terms of race, sexual orientation, and gender identification, mental health and/or income create a discriminatory environment where some individuals are more likely to spend unnecessary time in jail?
We request that the County Commission pass a resolution to wait one year before allocating more county time or money on the jail expansion project. Before we spend $40 million to add beds, we should explore the alternatives. Jackson-Madison County should buck the jail-expansion trend and become a model of re-entry programs and other transformative justice-inspired solutions.
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