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Carter jail inspection fuels sheriff campaign debate

John Thompson • Jul 6, 2018 at 7:00 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The recent annual inspection of the Carter County Detention Center by the Tennessee Corrections Institute has become a topic of discussion in  political debates over the upcoming election for sheriff.

The jail underwent its annual inspection May 25. In a cover letter dated June 5, Beth Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, wrote, “the inspection revealed that this facility does not meet all the applicable minimum standards.” She said a re-inspection will be conducted July 19 “to determine that the deficiencies have been corrected.”

Independent candidate Steve Stevenson is challenging Republican incumbent Dexter Lunceford in the race for sheriff, which will be decided in the Aug. 2 Carter County General Election.

Stevenson said in an email that deficiencies were noted in 11 of the 14 major areas inspected.

He wrote: “the Sheriff has a whole year to get ready for this inspection and we have just seen the results of the jail at it's best. What is the jail like in the previous 11 months, when there is no inspection?”

Lunceford said the results are common and nothing to be alarmed about. He said in most cases, a jail will have to go through the re-inspection. “The first time is really a pre-inspection,” Lunceford said. “They find the areas we need to work on.”

Lunceford said most of the inspection is about documentation and paperwork, as well as burned-out lights. He said the department was in transition at the time of the inspection, which caused more findings than normal for the jail.

“We are going paperless,” Lunceford of the transition from paper copies. At the time of the first inspection, not all the reports had been filed the new way.

The findings in the inspection included:

• The fire suppression system had not been serviced since February 2017;

• Fire drills were not conducted quarterly;

• Evacuation plans were not posted in cell areas;

• Work orders were not completed on a consistent basis;

• Pre-service orientation needed for all new employees;

• Disciplinary waivers were not being signed on a consistent basis;

• Lights needed to be replaced. Vents needed cleaning. One monitor was not working. A fire panel was showing an alert;

• Daily sanitation and safety inspections were not being completed on a consistent basis;

• Recreation was not being conducted and/or logged on a consistent basis;

• The annual meeting between the health authority and the sheriff had not occurred;

• A criminal history check was not documented during the booking process;

• Correctional officer and inmate signatures were missing from some property receipts;

• Documentation not completed consistently on washing of sheets and towels; mattress sanitation; washing of blankets, and exchange of clothing; and

• Security checks were not being logged on an hourly basis on an irregular schedule. Suicide watch tags were not in compliance with policy and procedures.

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