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Bedford Co. Approves Money To Keep Jail Open

Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 20:54:48-05

After several failed state jail inspections, lawmakers in Bedford County have now been putting up money to keep the jail there open and promising a new jail's on the way.

Tuesday night, Bedford County commissioners approved $30,000 to make some quick repairs to their current jail after a clear warning from jail inspectors in February.

"The guy even said, 'You're in the 11th hour and midnight's coming up. You've got to do something,'" said Bedford County Sheriff Austin Swing, recalling his conversation with a jail inspector from the Tennessee Corrections Institute

After TCI inspected the Bedford County Jail in February, inspectors told Bedford County leaders they're likely going to decertify the jail during its meeting in June, citing overcrowding and poor jail conditions.

Decertification would likely mean increased insurance rates for the jail, and it could be held liable in lawsuits stemming from items that caused the decertification.

In an effort to keep the jail's certification, Bedford County commissioners approved the money Tuesday night for repairs at the current jail, and they passed a resolution promising jail inspectors that they'll move forward with money for a brand-new jail in next year's budget.

The Sheriff said if that promise was broken, the state could shut down the jail -- something he said would be disastrous.  

"We would have to move all our prisoners out to other jails. We would have to pay for their stay in those jails, and we would have to go get them and bring them back-and-forth to court from other counties," Swing said.

Bedford County voters turned down a wheel tax on March 1 that would have helped raise money for the new jail.  Now the Sheriff said the county will likely see a property tax increase next year to pay for it.