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Farris Proposes 60 New Law Enforcement Positions For Justice Center

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Farris Proposes 60 New Law Enforcement Positions For Justice Center

Putnam County Sheriff Eddie Farris wants to add roughly 60 new positions to help staff the new justice center.

A CTAS study shared with the County Budget Committee Monday night suggested the county needed at least 110 new employees to operate the expanded facility.

“I don’t think we can afford 110 new employees,” Farris said. “If we see we can’t do it with 60, then I’ll be back. But I’m hoping we can do it with 60 new employees. I know that 60 is not the best scenario. But I’m trying to find a number that we can open the jail and manage it the best we can with the number of inmates we got, but also not be a terrible burden on the taxpayers and the people who’s trying to fund it, which is you.”

The original CTAS recommendation was 160 employees. The current staffing at the Justice Center is 56 employees.

Jim Hart is a Jail Management Consultant with CTAS. He said his biggest concern with the reductions proposed are the lack of personnel to cover for one another.

“Your jail is going to expand almost three times, almost a 500-bed increase reduces the supervisory relief factor,” Hart said. “I believe that based on the number of reductions, you’ve eliminated a relief factor for, for virtually all of your corrections officers or your line staff.”

Hart’s suggestion of 110 employees included 91 employees in jail security. Farris and his team removed any inmate programming positions in an effort to save money.

“One of the things that was discussed early on was having trying to start a robust programming initiative to start focusing on work release, reentry services, trying to invest in the inmates in custody,” Hart said.

Farris said it’s hard to determine whether he would need to come back and ask for additional staffing.

“We’ll just have to take that and see how much of our increase of our inmates that we get and how our programs are working and if we need more, obviously, jail staff would tell me, and we’ll work on that and we’ll come back at another time,” Farris said. “But, yeah, I can’t say that this is the last time I’ll be up here asking for jail staff, but I certainly think it’s a good starting point for us.”

Hart said in his experience it usually takes a new or expanded facility about a year to settle and determine the right staffing numbers.

In addition to the law enforcement personnel, Farris said the justice center expansion will also require another IT specialist, accounts payable specialist, a dispatcher, a part time court officer, and a part time court security officer.

Farris said he believes the county is close to an agreement with the US Marshall’s Office to house some 110 inmates. That would pay the county between $70 and $90 per inmate per day.

“We’re in a unique position,” Farris said. “First of all, we’re in the Middle District of Tennessee, which means Nashville Court, but we’re also close to the Eastern District, which is Knoxville. And so I think that they are really excited about having us to use that. We certainly can make money at that rate.”

In addition to justice center needs, Farris also asked for six new deputies. Two would be transporters. Four will be designated as school resource officers. An additional officer would be added to Cookeville High School, Upperman High School, Prescott South, and Highland Rim Academy. Farris said the two high schools are growing. The additional Prescott officer would allow the elementary school and middle school to each have their own officer.

Farris said the academy would pay back the county.

With the state stepping forward with new school resource officer funding, Farris said the county will be able to use money it currently spends on school resource officers.

Farris said he is also concerned about hiring enough people. That along with the training will take time.

“We’ve got some very professional people that’s leading our charge, but when it comes to everyday corrections, it seems like it’s more of an employment job instead of a career,” Farris said. “It’s very difficult to find those type of people, so we’re doing our best to try to find them, but obviously we’re recruiting and using Tennessee Tech and some of the retired military and some of the recruiters, and everything we can pull from, we’re pulling from. And obviously from what we were able to pay in this county, some of the better ones are coming from all the other surrounding counties and certainly want jobs with us, and that’s a benefit to us, but we’ll do what we can. But it’s going to be a long road to try to find enough folks.”

Several budget committee members questioned the sheriff on whether he had cut too far in trying to get the numbers where they need to be. Farris said he tried to be aware he was not the only person looking for more money in this budget.

As for the original CTAS recommendations, Hart said counties are able to fund CTAS recommendations fully about 50 percent of the time.

The justice center expansion will be completed by May, 2024.


The post Farris Proposes 60 New Law Enforcement Positions For Justice Center appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.