Overcrowding has become an issue at the Trousdale County Jail as the inmate population has changed in recent years, and it has been an increasing topic of conversation amongst governmental figures as of late.

“We have been monitoring this for several years,” Trousdale County Commission Chairman Dwight Jewell said. “We may have adequate space for men, but we have to segregate males and females. If inmates are sick, we don’t have a way to separate them.”

An increase in women committing crimes, murders, sex offenses, and the mentally ill being placed into custody have become a major challenge to county leaders and have contributed to an overcrowding problem at the jail.

“The jail is a dormitory-style facility,” Jewell said. “It was designed with adequate space to house inmates according to the inmate population of 25 years ago, but that (demographic) has changed.”

Trousdale County Sheriff Ray Russell added, “The jail can house up to 44 (inmates), which consists of three, 10-bed dorms, two six-bed dorms, and two single-bed rooms. The jail must have room to segregate inmates. Those on suicide watch, sex offenders, murderers, and those who are sick must be segregated.”

Unfortunately, with a lack of adequate space at the jail, that has become a challenge.

“Our jail is obsolete,” Russell said. “We have had to house some of our prisoners in other counties. This jail was not built to house certain types of prisoners that must be segregated. In many cases, jails have become mental wards.”

Another issue that plagues the Trousdale County Jail is the lack of sufficient space to properly house support facilities.

“Support facilities, like the laundry facility, the kitchen, the file storage area, and the medical facility, are all pushed to the limit,” Jewell said.

Over the past seven years, the population of Trousdale County has exploded. In 2015, the county’s population was 8,051, but it grew to 12,037 by 2022. That is an increase of almost 4,000 new residents. However, as the population has grown, so has crime.

“The Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) came in and provided hard data for Trousdale County,” Jewell said.

In an effort to deal with the overcrowding and inadequate space issues, the professional selections committee has been created to take a look at practical solutions.

The professional selections committee is comprised of three members — Trousdale County Mayor Stephen Chambers, Jewell and Russell.

“The current jail cannot be expanded, because there is just not enough space,” Jewell said. “The committee has looked at designs from architects for a new jail that could easily be expanded in the future.”

So, the committee will be looking at several options for a new jail.

“It (finding a solution) is not as simple as people may think,” Jewell said. “We have state laws and federal laws that must be followed.”

Each year, the jail must be certified by the TCI in order to house inmates. If the facility is deemed inadequate, the county may be put on a plan of action. Under such a plan, Trousdale County could be obligated to pay neighboring counties to house their inmates or be required to build a new jail facility.

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