Coffee County Sheriff’s Department captain Frank Watkins (left) and Sheriff Steve Graves pose in front of the new Coffee County Jail. (Staff photo by Chris Barstad)

Coffee County Jail inmates will have to wait another week to occupy the new $22 million jail, officials have announced. Coffee County Sheriff’s Dept. Capt. Frank Watkins said Thursday that the transfer, which was scheduled to take place Monday(May 4), has been delayed. Watkins said the sheriff’s department is waiting on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to activate equipment at the facility. “They have to activate the fingerprint machine and the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) hookup and they aren’t going to do that until May 11,” Watkins said Thursday. “So we will be moving May 12.” Sheriff Steve Graves said that officials must have an order in for food services for the new jail, plus work out a new standard operating procedure for the medical staff. “The S.O.P. is needed now that we have a contract with a company to provide medical services,” Graves said. Last month, the Coffee County Purchasing Committee, in an attempt to get inmate medical costs under better control, voted to outsource the new jail’s healthcare operations to Quality Correctional Health Care (QCHC) at a cost of $456,000 per year. QCHC is a physician-owned correctional healthcare provider based in Birmingham, Ala. The annual cost includes all medical care as well as mental health services, dental work up to $12,500 per year and most pharmaceutical drugs, with the exception of HIV and other specialty medications. The county has built the new $22 million jail at 3176 Hillsboro Boulevard to replace the existing facility. The existing jail has been housing close to 300 inmates, even though it was built to house 193 people. The new facility will house 400 inmates. The county plans to keep the work house open for trusties at the current jail. The new jail is designed with many features that the current one does not have, including keeping male and female inmates separated with no visibility between the two. According to Watkins, there will also be a top level control room overlooking all four quadrants of each cell pod through a one way glass. The new jail will also have an isolation cell in each quadrant, as well as one-way control room monitoring from above, and video-conducted visitation as opposed to glass separated visits or supervised personal visits. The jail will also house electronic documentation of all security checks, including entry and exit between interior sections of the jail. The new 1,200 square foot medical wing inside the jail includes numerous examination rooms, restroom and a quarantine facility for inmates with contagious illnesses. Sheriff Graves said the two-person cells should reduce the number of fights in the jail. Those fights have often resulted in hospital visits and in some cases hospitalization. “We hope to have everything running smoothly by the time Bonnaroo rolls around next month,” the sheriff said.

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