Carter County has until December to correct jail staffing issues for state recertification
Correctional officials have informed new Carter County, Tennessee Sheriff Mike Fraley that operating conditions do not meet state standards due to staffing issues.
The Tennessee Corrections Institute plans to assist Fraley with issues but recertification could not be recommended following the inspection this month.
Fraley said in a statement that the recruitment of new officers is a top priority but the problems outlined by the state will not be solved overnight. Institute staff will return to the jail for a final report in December.
On Friday, inspectors with the Tennessee Corrections Institute conducted a reinspection of the Carter County Jail and despite improvements having been made, the certification of the facility will be determined in December when the TCI Board of Control meets.
The primary concern expressed by TCI officials following their inspection on Friday were what they termed “life safety issues” that were attributed to the critically low staffing of the jail.
“I am proud of the hard work by the Corrections Division to correct many of the issues cited in the July inspection report,” Carter County Sheriff Mike Fraley said. “Staffing has been a long-term issue at the Sheriff’s Department, most notably within the Corrections Division and in our School Resource Officer program. These issues did not happen over night and cannot be fixed overnight.”
Following the inspection, TCI officials met with Sheriff Fraley, Chief Deputy Jeff Gazzo, Jail Administrator Capt. Matt Patterson, and Assistant Jail Administrator Lt. Barbara Scalf do discuss their findings and the next steps going forward. TCI Detention Facility Specialist Jason Cate, who inspected the jail in July and again on Friday, told Sheriff Fraley that with the current staffing issues he could not recommend the jail be recertification. However, Cate said he would assist the department in any way he could, including visiting the jail Facility again before the TCI Board of Control meeting and, if the staffing issue had improved, he would inform the Board he would recommend the jail receive its recertification.
“I am pleased that TCI is willing to work with us, and that they understand the staffing issue is something that could not be fixed within the nine days between my taking office and their reinspection,” Sheriff Fraley said. “With the maintenance issues now corrected we can fully focus on recruiting and retaining staff in our jail.”
Sheriff Fraley stated his administrative team has begun reaching out to former corrections officers who recently left to invite them to return. He also noted a civil service test will be held Tuesday, September 13 at 6 pm at the TCAT-Elizabethton campus which will also provide a pool of potential employees. Applications will be available at the test for anyone interested in a job at the Sheriff’s Office.
“The raise approved by the County Commission for this fiscal year should help with retaining the employees we have and recruiting new or returning ployees,” Sheriff Fraley said. “I am confident that we can increase our jail staff before the December TCI Board of Control meeting and retain our certification.”
(IMAGE: Bristol Broadcasting Co News Archive)