SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - The Sullivan County Sheriff's Office is looking at a new option for inmates that they say could save them money and cut down on jail overcrowding.
Sullivan County Sheriff's Office corrections Major Greg Simcox says they have been looking for ways to fix overcrowding at the jail. "The TCI recommends that you don't exceed 80 percent of your capacity. Well, we're well over 80 percent. We're at about 98 percent," says Simcox.
Major Simcox says there are 621 beds inside the jail. While all of them may not be taken, they may still have problems with overcrowding, "You can't put somebody in a cell that's in jail for a misdemeanor vandalism in the same cell with somebody that's in there charged with murder."
Simcox believes they may have found the solution -- "ankle bracelets" that will track the inmate's movements. He says they're also tamper-proof. "If they try to cut them off, it automatically sends a message that it's being violated."
Simcox says if someone is caught violating the terms of the contract, the company will notify the sheriff's office and they will arrest the suspect.
Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus tells us a judge will decide on a case-by-case basis if someone is eligible for the program, but the program will only be for non-violent offenders. "In place of lowering a bond a judge might leave the bond in the same amount, but he'll have the security of knowing that we can locate these individuals at any given time," he said.
Simcox says right now it costs the county around $47 a day to house an inmate. If they are selected for the program, the inmate will pay $50 for the bracelet and around $10 dollars a day to keep it on. "We're really working hard trying to figure out what we can do to keep from having to spend $30 or $40 million dollars to build a new jail right now," adds Simcox.
Simcox says the county did not enter into a contract with the company; instead, the inmates will pay the fees themselves.
On Monday the Sullivan County Commission approves to spend $50,000 to cover the cost of inmates who cannot afford it, but who were approved for the program.
Simcox is hoping to start the program in mid-to-late January.