The Concurrent Hamilton County Grand Jury is recommending that the county utilize videoconferencing for court initial appearances.
The panel headed by Robert Smith said it would save the cost of transporting prisoners from the workhouse at Silverdale to downtown and would also be much safer.
The report to Judge Don Poole also recommended more work opportunities for those at the workhouse.
The Concurrent Grand Jury also said there should be stiffer penalties for those with repeat cases of driving on a revoked license and DUI.
Here is the full report:
The Honorable Don W. Poole, Judge
Criminal Court, Division III
Hamilton County, Tennessee
The Concurrent Grand Jury for the September – December term presents the following report.
The members of the Concurrent Grand Jury very much appreciated the opportunity to observe first-hand and be a part of the initial stages of the criminal justice system in Hamilton County. Also, the visits to the Silverdale facility, County Jail, Juvenile Justice Center and Community Corrections Program were very informative. The Grand Jury service combined with the visits to these different facilities provided us with insights regarding the criminal justice system that very few citizens of this County ever get to experience.
The testimony of law enforcement officers made us realize the importance and danger of their work. We commend all those individuals who are members of this profession.
The legal information provided by the Assistant District Attorney, Bill West, was very helpful and appreciated. We also very much appreciated Joyce Smith serving as the note taker for this term.
This report reflects the opinions of the members of the Concurrent Grand Jury based on our tours of the Silverdale facility and the Community Corrections program.
The Concurrent Grand Jury issues the following commendations and recommendations:
(1) The facility appears to be very clean, well organized and operated in an orderly manner.
(2) Utilization of video conferencing technology for inmate visitation reduces the opportunity for the introduction of contraband into the facility and frees up personnel for other necessary responsibilities.
(3) The Concurrent Grand Jury strongly recommends the installation of the technology to use videoconferencing for the initial Court appearance of the inmates, which will reduce the cost of transporting inmates between Silverdale and the Downtown Courts Building and also, is a much safer arrangement.
(4) If possible, since Silverdale is a workhouse, the Jury recommends that more work opportunities be provided to both males and females housed at this facility.
(5) The Silverdale administration is to be commended for the different types of volunteer programs, e.g., basic education, GED preparation, drug and alcohol counseling and religious services, available for the benefit of the inmates.
(6) The Jury is very encouraged to learn that additional housing is being constructed at Silverdale to provide an additional 128 beds and will be available by the end of year. This will provide much needed relief for the overcrowded County Jail.
(7) Some of the mattresses provided to the inmates appear to be in need of replacement.
(8) In order for Silverdale to adequately serve the inmates and keep the community safe, we recommend that CCA continue to keep employee retention and recruitment at the forefront of the budgetary process.
(1) Overall this program appears to be cost efficient, especially the house arrest with electronic monitoring being utilized. This program appears to be a good use of taxpayer funds.
(2) Community Corrections could use additional resources to expand the house arrest program for non-violent offenders, which would assist in reducing the cost and overcrowding in prisons.
(3) The Jury recommends that the Community Corrections facility be upgraded with new paint, ceiling tiles and modern lighting.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
This Grand Jury, as previous Grand Juries, is concerned about (1) the large number of individuals who are arrested for continuing to drive on a suspended or revoked license and (2) the number of individuals who are arrested for a DUI who have one or more DUI convictions. The Jury recommends that the State legislature consider enhancing the penalty for these two crimes for repeat offenders.
Members of the Concurrent Grand Jury