MANCHESTER, Tenn. — A tentative move-in date for inmates to transfer to the nearly $20 million Coffee County Jail in Manchester is set for May 4. Construction crews are wrapping up interior concrete finishing work on the new jail while officials are moving items from the old jail.
When the jail is complete, about 26 more correctional officers will be needed to staff the 400-bed jail. The old jail was opened in the early 1980s with space for about 190 beds, including its workhouse, and it currently houses around 300 inmates. Sheriff Steve Graves told NewsChannel 5 that overcrowding problems have been so bad in the old jail that cells designed for 16 people would often house up to 40. These issues led to fights that jail staff could not control.
Current inmates will be classified according to their criminal histories, behavior record, gang affiliations and severity of charges as they are moved over in small groups. New arrestees will be classified the same way and booked directly into the new jail, Graves told the Columbia Daily Herald.
The 76,648-square-foot facility will feature an administrative building and two jail pods. These pods will have a unique design, each featuring a two-tiered open structure with dual-capacity rooms located on the edges of the pod on each level. Each pod will house 200 inmates, for a total maximum capacity of 400.
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.
County Commissioner and jail review committee member Tim Morris told the Columbia Daily Herald that capacity could still be an issue due to the number of people on probation in the county. There are between 1,200 and 1,400 people on probation in the county, so if 10 percent of them violated probation and were jailed, it would add more than 100 people to the inmate population, he said.
To accommodate the county’s changing population, officials are considering using the old jail building as a possible workhouse for work release and minimum-security inmates to work off their jail time, the Columbia Daily reported. The facility could also offer housing for overflow from the new jail for up to 60 inmates at need. The cost of conversion is estimated at $500,000, while a future addition of a third pod to the jail could cost about $7 million.
A workhouse would also keep apart violent and nonviolent offenders, which should reduce incidents among inmates and associated medical costs for the county, he said.
Morris said 911 officials also are studying the idea of converting part of the old jail into a new 911 center. That could take the place of a plan to erect a replacement 911 building on state Highway 55 next to the existing site between Manchester and Tullahoma.
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.