Federal prisoners could help Carter Sheriff solve pay, communications problems

John Thompson • Updated Jun 12, 2018 at 9:22 AM

ELIZABETHTON — After years of trying to find ways of providing overtime pay for its deputies and ways of upgrading its communications system, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department may have found a solution by housing federal prisoners.

Chief Deputy James Parrish spoke to the Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission during its meeting Monday to discuss what the sheriff’s department would like to do with the first few years of additional revenue coming from the housing of federal prisoners.

The Carter County Jail has provided space for state prisoners for many years, but Parrish said federal prisoners had not been housed in the jail until recently.

Parrish said the state pays $31 per day per prisoner to Carter County. He said the federal government pays $60 per prisoner per day. That could amount to an additional half-million dollars for the county. That could add up to a financial solution for two of the sheriff department’s longest-standing needs.

Parrish said he hopes the County Commission would allow the sheriff to use the additional money for a few years to solve those problems. Then he said the money could be applied to paying down the debt the county incurred in building the jail.

One of the problems is the inability to pay overtime to deputies. Parrish said the department currently provides compensatory time for the deputies who work longer than scheduled. The time is then held until a deputy can be given extra time off or is paid for the time.

Parrish said that the payment of overtime would mean more officers would get a higher amount on their paychecks and could help prevent deputies from going to higher-paying departments in the area.

The other problem that could be solved by the new revenue is the communications system the department uses. Parrish said it is the same system the department had in 1998, during the Doe River Flood.

He said that system failed then and could fail again under similar circumstances. He said the mountainous terrain to the county doesn’t help. He said Holston Mountain causes a communications “shadow” and Elk Mills is also a difficult place for communications.

The committee voted to recommend the sheriff’s request to the County Commission next week.

The committee also agreed to recommend an incentive policy that would be available to the city and county industrial development boards.

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