Expansion of Blount County Correctional Facility draws near

    An expansion of the Blount County Correctional Facility is expected to start first quarter of this year. (Alex Derencz | abc3340.com)

    Even though Blount County Sheriff Mark Moon has a new chair and title in front of his name, he says something has remained the same during his 10-plus year career with the BCSO: overcrowding at the correctional facility. He says the 24-year-old facility was built to house 101 inmates, and as of Friday morning, there were 165. Moon says the building does show wear and tear, but jail administration does a great job making any necessary fixes.

    He says the addition of a 71-bed new facility will be a big help.

    "This is going to be a fantastic addition to what we are doing here," Sheriff Moon says. "This is not just a band-aid on a bleeding artery. The biggest thing we are dealing with in overcrowding is whenever people are put in stressful situations and tight-quarters, obviously it amplifies their tension level, and it causes some people to lash out. "If we can thin them out some and make it to where we do not have so many in one place at one time that way they are not so constricted, if we can de-stress them and lower their stress level. It makes it so much safer for our corrections officers, and that is really what it is all about, is protecting our corrections officers."

    In 2018, a task force was put together to look into the potential of an inmate work release program. That task force found that a new wing of the facility needed to be added. Moon says once the impound lot and maintenance shed have been moved, construction can begin on the new addition, which is expected to be the first quarter of this year.

    He adds that the plan is to have the new building and currently facility work together in terms of a reward system for inmates. What he means by that is that the new facility is expected to hold the inmate worker program, which includes a functional work release program, through which inmates on good behavior can be moved into the new facility. The new facility is also expected to feature a classroom, LED lighting, offices and spaces for corrections officers to monitor the inmates.

    The sheriff's office expects to stay in the current facility for 12 more years. Blount County Probate Judge and Commission Chairman, Chris Green says the county intends to build the addition using county labor and expertise to the extent that they can. He says by doing that, it would keep the price tag down in the $700,000 to $800,000 ballpark.

    "I think it is huge that we would be able to offer a low-cost facility, and I know that $700,000 sounds like a lot of money, but most counties are building correctional facilities that cost millions and tens of millions of dollars," Green says. "We do not feel like we are ready to do that, but we do know there is a need for the additional space, and by doing it this way, we will be able to do it with funds that are available and not have to borrow money and provide for the next eight to 10 years for our county."

    The goal is to have the facility completed by the end of 2019.

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