Because of the overcrowding, Sheriff Robert Bryan has the costs to expand the jail to house the added inmates under review. The current jail was built in 2007, he said.
State law mandates all jails are less than or at capacity. Due to county growth, arrests, crime and the court system, the total of those jailed continues to hover around 500 inmates a day, which is beyond capacity. Wilson County’s jail holds inmates who are charged with various felonious crimes. They are both local and state criminals.
The next steps for Bryan are to contact the County Technical Advisory Service, which can help the county with options to expand the jail. He also works with various other organizations that can assess the jail space and give advice as to what to do.
Bryan said at any one time, there are 50-60 more inmates in the facility, and that causes a problem.
“We are doing all we can do to eliminate the overcrowding, including trying to move the state inmates,” he said. “Unfortunately, they are overcrowded, too, and won’t take them.”
He said the number of criminals increased in the past year.
“Last year at this time, we had 410-420 inmates,” he said. “Now, we have more than 500. The jail will take two years to expand, so we need to start now.
“We don’t need to put a Band-Aid on it,” Bryan said. “We need to fix it, or three or four years down the road, we’re going to have the same problem.”
After he gets the various options, he’ll present the numbers to the Wilson County Commission. Bryan works with Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto and finance director Aaron Maynard.
“We’re trying to see what we have to do to increase the jail,” he said.
Bryan said the county bought land around the current jail for a possible expansion.
Hutto said the county awaits to hear what Bryan has to say about the need for more space.
“Then, we’ll go through the process of costs and talk about bond availability,” he said. “We’ll look at what we can do.”
Hutto said the amount needed to build the jail could be paid for with an increase in property taxes or the county’s adequate facilities tax, which builders pay and is currently $3,000 per home. The last option is to raise the sales tax. That option will be on the Nov. 6 ballot for voters to decide. Hutto said the county does not want to raise property taxes or the adequate facilities tax.
Maynard said the first thing the county has to do on the finance side is to listen to Bryan’s proposal and cost.
“Before we commit to a bid, we have to know what the total cost will be,” Maynard said. “It should be significantly less that a school. I’m expecting $20 million-$25 million, but I don’t know for sure.”
Once the bid is approved, the county will look at how to pay for the expansion. Then, the costs will go through the proper committees for a recommendation to the full commission.
“Our purpose is to provide the best possible service we can to keep the community a safe place to live,” Hutto said.