Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sevier County Jail

As the election nears, I have had the opportunity to meet and greet thousands of people in Sevier County that will be voting in the August 5th election. Most of the citizens I have talked with are adamant in changing the way the Sevier County Sheriff department is operating. Some are apathetic and a few could care less about any elections. The majority of the citizens I have talked with want a new administration. However, the majority of the voters are the same voters that vote in each election and elect the same administration. The majority of the citizens are not the majority of voters. There are 52,000 registered voters in Sevier County and only 20 percent turn out. I will do my part in this process to make changes and overhaul the Sheriff department if I am elected. The voters will determine if the same ole, same ole continues and the voters are the ones that will rule and that is what everyone will live with.

I have listened to many complaints and concerns of the Sevier County Jail operations. I haven't visited the jail since I retired 7 years ago. At the time I was working and interacting with the jail personnel and operations, I recall the jail to be operating very effectively, with a professional staff and leadership. There have been some apparent changes with most of the complaints centered with the treatment of inmates and the sanitary conditions at the jail.

I have very little compassion for the inmates of the jail. If one does not like the county bed and breakfast, then don't commit the crimes. In a perfect world, there would be no need for incarceration, but as long as there are humans, there will be jail. Inmates are in jail for rehabilitation purposes. Many are there awaiting court hearings and sentencing to determine guilt. Some are there because they like liquor and some are there because they like jail. Regardless, the jail needs to be operated professionally, with a sanitary facility, without compassion and fellowship of the corrections officers to insure people that utilize the jail don't like the facilities and don't want to return.

Most people of Sevier County are very much aware of the "Paul LitnerGate" scandal. For what ever reason, this jailhouse opportunist has made a mockery of the criminal justice system and the Sevier County Sheriff  Department.  He has been supported by the current administration. Litner, a convicted felon, served time in prison and was released.  He came to Sevier County, committed fraud, and again was convicted.  He served time as an inmate in the Sevier County jail. He was released only to be hired by the administration, knowing he was a felon, and given a high level position as a corrections officer in the same jail he had served his time as a felon. The only time I recall a jail house inmate being appointed a police officer was Otis Campbell who did time in the Mayberry jail. Barney then appointed Otis a police officer. The only difference with Otis, he did not have fellow inmates with him to solicit and coerce sex, costing Mayberry $50 million dollars in a law suit like Litner has cost Sevier County.  I have talked with many concerned persons that are disgusted with this.

I agree, this ain't Mayberry and this is no TV movie. I have heard reports Litner was buying anything and everything with county funds, including a tractor trailer load of toilet paper that never made it to the jail. I am sure there are receipts for these transactions that could be produced for an audit, but the audit is only as good as the official reviewing the expense. Are these accusations true? Some must be because Litner is now serving time again for committing a crime while employed as a corrections officer with the Sevier County Sheriff Department with the knowledge and sponsorship of the Sevier County Sheriff. A 50 million dollar law suit to be paid by the Sevier County taxpayers is pending and will have to be paid because  Litner plead guilty to the crime. As a citizen, I am outraged this activity occurred.  The money spent to maintain a sleazy, low life character endorsed by the Sheriff is beyond disgusting. Taxpayer money that could have been spent on schools and other domestic projects has been spent, with the permission of the Sevier County Sheriff Department, on silly and naughty sexcapades.
Another complaint I have been informed of, by many, is the installation and operation of an ATM  machine placed in the Sevier County jail for inmates. I do not know what the justifications are for this type of  activity, but in my opinion, it has all the makings for another LitnerGate debacle.
Inmates being able to access funds can only lead to more corruption and no accountablility.  I am sure there are arguments that this is adding to the efficiency of the Sevier County jail, but when comparing each inmate's ability to acquire funds, it identifies the inmate with the most money controls the jail house staff and other inmates.  This is apparently in place for commissary purchases and there seems to be no limit to how much money can be placed in the ATM, as well as a very heavy fee levied on each transaction. Who is in charge of the banking of this ATM and who accounts for the money and transactions?  Inmates should be supplied with the necessities to sustain them in the jail until their release, with very minimal supplements, based on their performance and conduct. 
This is not a college campus or military boot camp.  The inmates are not guaranteed anything but strict rehabilitation to keep them from returning to the Sevier County Jail. The reality of jail is JAIL!  If you don't like the faciltities, then don't return!  All inmates should be treated alike with none of them being able to access any money without proper accountability and exigent circumstances only. I am wondering where this idea came from?
Maybe I am missing something and not very well informed but I have been told it is very effective at the animal shelters also.

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