Changes underway at county jail as expansion nears

Aug. 02, 2014 @ 11:39 PM

The hiring of a new medical contractor is the latest change at the Sevier County Jail, but far from the only one going on at the facility.

Quality Correctional Health Care took over the medical duties last month, and county personnel are still working with the new staff on the transition.

Next year, they’ll be expanding the minimum security facility once again and adding personnel. The county has already budgeted for the construction and for hiring new correctional officers.

They plan to have a certified capacity of 570 — more than several other nearby counties with larger permanent populations.

“We’re in one of the top echelons in the state for population,” Seals said.

At the same time, they’re developing new protocols for corrections officers as the state is getting set to change its standards next year as well.

“We will be ahead of that. We’ll have that in place before the standards change,” said Jail Administrator Larry McMahan.

They’re also adopting new technology that they hope will keep inmates and staff safer.

That includes new sensors throughout the prisons that patrolling guards will have to touch to show they’ve been in designated areas within an appropriate time frame.

They already have cameras that can view most of the facility, and jailers keep logs of their patrols, but the sensors will show exactly when the jailers passed through certain areas.

They’re also applying for a grant to add new security cameras throughout the jail, and are experimenting with cameras that jailers can wear on their shirts to document their interaction with inmates.

“I’m trying to be proactive,” McMahan said.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com