Southerland wins approval of legislation to help keep jails certified

April 9, 2009

Southerland wins approval of legislation to help keep
jails certified

(NASHVILLE, TN), April 9, 2009 — Legislation that would keep many Tennessee jails from being decertified due to a higher square footage than what is required under the American Correctional Association’s (ACA) standards passed the full Senate today. The bill, sponsored by Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown), specifies that the standards for the square footage of cells in new or existing local correctional facilities must be the minimum standards required by ACA’s Performance-Based Standards for
Adult Local Detention Facilities, rather than the 50 square feet required in Tennessee.

 “This measure will make sure that local jails are not decertified, an action which could cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Southerland.  “It also helps save money when new jails are built.  For example, where a 500-bed jail in Florida cost $32 million to build, the same facility in Tennessee would cost  taxpayers $58 million under the current square footage requirements.”

The standard of 50 square feet per inmate for a single cell was adopted in 1982 by an advisory committee of the Tennessee Corrections Institute.  This is substantially larger than the 35 square feet required under federal ACA standards.

“Housing inmates is a very costly expenditure for local governments,” added Southerland.  “Local counties could save as much as 30 percent on new facilities while still meeting minimum standards set by the ACA. I am pleased our State Senate has adopted this bill.”

The bill is currently pending action in the State Government Subcommittee in the House of Representatives.


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