MANCHESTER, Tenn. — After losing its state certification due to overcrowding and understaffing in 2012, the Coffee County Jail in Manchester was recently re-certified by the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI), which establishes minimum standards for adult local jails, lock-ups, workhouses and detention facilities in the state. The new $20 million jail officially opened in May 2015 when it received its first inmates, and offers more than double the capacity of its predecessor.
“I’m proud of my outstanding staff that has been working hard to have the jail become certified,” Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves told the Tullahoma News following the re-certification announcement. “This is a very difficult task, but with the dedication of the staff the goals have been met.”
Construction on the new jail began in spring 2012, when the existing 1980s-era, 196-bed jail housed more than 250 inmates. An official groundbreaking ceremony was held in December 2012. Brentwood, Tenn.-based Bell & Associates Construction served as the construction manager on the project, and Nashville, Tenn.-based Centric Architecture served as the architect.
In June 2014, with construction underway, Sheriff Graves, speaking with local news station WKRN, expressed deep concern about the safety of correctional staff members, who were at times outnumbered by inmates 100 to 1, as the jail’s population by that point had several times surpassed 300. Graves added that the extreme uptick in population had added to inmate medical costs and prohibited jail staff from properly segregating and classifying inmates. The earlier jail’s outdated and increasingly dilapidated structure compounded these issues. In recent years Graves was even forced to request early releases for some inmates.
Today, however, the more than 76,000-square-foot facility features an administrative building and two, 200-inmate housing pods. The pods each feature a two-tiered open structure with dual-capacity rooms located on the edges of the pod on each level. The jail was constructed using precast, concrete cells, precast concrete wall panels in the inmate housing units and masonry construction in the balance of the kitchen, medical and visitation areas. The facility also provides new offices for the sheriff’s staff. The jail is designed with an expandable pod system so that new 200-bed pods can be added as needed, and support facilities (such as the kitchen and laundry areas) were already sized to serve more inmates.