Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J. "Jones says local elected officials must find a way to remedy overcrowding at the Maloneyville Rd. detention facility to avoid future lawsuits.
"I can promise you that if we keep being over-capped out there, someone will file a lawsuit," said Jones of the Maloneyville facility at a Knox County Commissioner's luncheon Monday afternoon.
A 1987 lawsuit in response to overcrowding at the downtown Knox County Jail has kept that facility under a federal court order to control the population ever since.
Jones says the state has expressed a willingness to provide some funds to build a new safety center if the city and county "have some skin in the game" as well.
"It's the cheapest and first line of defense," says Jones.
He estimates the building would cost $1.8 million dollars.
It would be operated by a third party, such as Helen Ross McNabb, and used to hold people arrested for minor crimes such as public intoxication, or crimes stemming from mental illness.
The issue has continuously come up in Knox County budget talks for the past several years, says Jones, but now is the time to act.
In order to protect the Maloneyville Road facility's accreditation the county must keep the population capped at fewer than 1,029 inmates.
Jones says as of Monday morning they were within 15 beds of that number, and he expect an influx of inmates during the coming colder months.
Jones acknowledged spending money on jails is a tough sell to the public.
Even if they build the center he does not believe it will be enough to keep them from needing to build a new "pod" at the jail in the next six years.
Jones estimates that cost at $29 million.