Heads in Beds

Interrelated things to watch out for in the coming months:

State prisons are full and in danger of coming back under a federal court order to do something about overcrowding. State prisons were under a court order for years in the past. The overcrowding will likely result in more pressure back on local jails to keep more state prisoners and the state will likely have to increase the reimbursement rate.

Knox County is trying to avoid adding another "pod" at its facility on Maloneyville Road, adding 200 beds to the county jail.

Sheriff Jimmy "JJ" Jones and District Attorney Randy Nichols are trying get a Safety Center built for drug and alcohol treatment and free up jail space use by chronic abusers. North Knoxville residents are opposed to the idea of building the Safety Center in their neighborhood, already the location of homeless shelters and low-income housing. At a recent meeting, residents argued for adding the Safety Center at Maloneyville. But that adds transportation costs

So Knox County faces building the Safety Center with city, county, and state money to free up beds at Maloneyville. But at the same time pressure will continue to build to add a pod at the county jail.

So the position is millions for the Safety Center and possibly millions more for a jail addition. The question for city and county government is whether they can do both.