Government and Law
6:00 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Anderson County Commissioner Pushing For Referendum On Jail Question

Anderson County Jail in Clinton.
Anderson County Jail in Clinton.
Credit Anderson County Sheriff's Department

 A proposal that will be presented to the Anderson County Commission's legislative panel tonight would set up a referendum over the question of housing federal and state inmates in the county's jail.

Proponents of the plan say housing those inmates in Anderson County could bring in revenue that would help pay for a new 212-bed addition to the existing jail in Clinton. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports county commissioner Dusty Irwin doesn't see it that way. Irwin's idea would put the question before voters in a nonbinding referendum, perhaps as early as municipal elections in August.

Supporters of the jail plan say the federal and state offenders that would be housed in Clinton would be low-risk suspects.

"Several of us on County Commission believe we can provide the staffing for the full year for this final phase of jail expansion by contracting to house a small number of low-risk state and federal inmates at a negotiated rate that allows us to cover some of our fixed costs," county commissioner Myron Iwanksi wrote in a November editorial.

Federal inmates would not be those who are convicted, but instead would be held in Anderson County while awaiting trial, said county law director Jay Yeager.

Even if the county commission, then the state General Assembly, gives their blessing to Commissioner Irwin's referendum plan, the results would not be legally binding on local leaders. Irwin told the News Sentinel it's still unknown whether the vote could be changed to a binding referendum.