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County to help pay for monitoring devices

The Claiborne Commission unanimously adopted a resolution last week agreeing to help pay for electronic monitoring devices for indigent inmates released on bond. Claiborne General Sessions Judge Robert Estep explained the need for monetary help.

Estep said recent changes to the statewide program prompted the request.

“Sometimes, somebody is let out on bond who we want to put a GPS system or drug patch on. If they’re indigent, there’s a fund set up by the state to pay for that. The statute changed in July where, if you want to participate, the county has to pay half,” said Estep.

He said the county’s portion, if adopted, would be $100 per month, per person.

“I have a line item budget, under ‘other contracted services,’ that I rarely use. It’s got $2,000 in it. I propose this money be sent into the state – about $1,000 – and I’ll monitor that, monthly.

“I don’t use it much. But, sometimes it comes in handy to have. And, I would like to at least be participating in the fund,” said Estep.

He said he has not been “a big fan” of the use of the devices.

“Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep up with them. But, it has its uses,” said Estep.

He said he currently has about three individuals who are using the device. He was asked whether some sort of fee could be charged to those using the monitors that would help cover the costs. Estep said there was not one.

Commissioner Steve Brogan said it “seemed odd” to him that the county seems to spend so much money on criminals.

“I tell you, the people in my district don’t like putting the money into the justice system that we do. It’s no wonder that our county, and our state and our federal government are like it is. When you look at the cost of housing prisoners versus what it costs to educate the kids – I just don’t get it,” said Brogan.

Estep said the new statute was “a surprise” that he had not seen coming.

“From (the state’s) perspective, if we’re not having to house and feed them, we need to be contributing to the fund.

“I don’t have to give anybody a GPS or a drug patch. Just keep them in jail. Pregnant women that’s on drugs and trying to get the baby here, alive – that drug patch works pretty good,” said Estep.

The drug patches are tested after one month of use. If any illegal substances are found, that person has violated their bond and will go back to jail, he said.

“It’s actually a pretty good system. It works better than the GPS. GPS – they can mess with that pretty easy,” said Estep.

The county has contracted with a private monitoring company via the state, on a limited basis, for the last four to five years, he said.

In other action, the commissioners spent a few minutes listening to Elder Rick Jernigan, pastor of the Davis Creek Primitive Baptist Church.

Jernigan outlined the historical significance of his church, which is the oldest consistently running one in Tennessee.

“We’re 222 years old this year. The current structure was built in 1850. We’re in the process of trying to restore it. Now, we’re not here asking for money. We just want to inform you all of the benefit this church has been to the county. We’re actually older than the county. Claiborne was constituted in 1801. We were in 1797. We’ve had over 582 family names come through,” said Jernigan.

He named some of the 19 original petitioners to the Baptist Association. Those names include the Yoakums, the Davis’, the Weavers and the Youngs.

“Our purpose is to inform you of this jewel you have in this county. This is something that, if we don’t do something to preserve it, it will go away. Two years ago, they were ready to close the doors. And, Sunday next, we’ll be baptizing two more members,” said Jernigan.

He encouraged those present at the meeting to contact him if they are interested in touring the church.

In another matter, the commission voted unanimously to transfer county insurance from United Healthcare to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee. The county will save about $85,000 by agreeing to this maneuver.