All agree: Justice Center Project best for Nashville

Sheriff Office ProjectDespite very public differences, Mayor Megan Barry and Sheriff Daron Hall can both agree that going forward with plans for the Justice Center Project is best for Nashville.

The project has faced resistance from some Southeast Nashville residents over the temporary relocation of  inmates from the downtown jail during its renovation, to an existing jail facility the Sheriff’s Office operates on Harding Place.

Additionally, the project calls for the building of a new Sheriff’s headquarters on the grounds of the Harding facility to consolidate administrative functions from five separate locations to one.

The Sheriff and Mayor released the following joint statement affirming that they are in agreement for funding of the project, and urged the Metro Council and residents to support it: “As elected officials, we are both sworn to uphold and protect the laws of Nashville and act in the best interests of the citizens of Davidson County.

“In the Capital Spending Plan, there are two requests that we ask to be funded to meet our needs as a community: $20 million for the Criminal Justice Center construction project that will be used for temporary upgrades to the Harding jail facilities in order to support the temporary relocation of prisoners and staff, and $20 million for the construction of consolidated DCSO administrative offices that will free up other properties and result in more efficient operations at the Sheriff’s Office.

“The $20 million request for the Criminal Justice Center project is critical to our ability to maximize the space and usage of the new CJC, while adequately providing for inmates and staff at the Harding facilities during the reconstruction.

“We believe that moving forward immediately with the construction of the Criminal Justice Center downtown is necessary for the safety and well-being of DCSO staff and inmates alike, and that we should construct the facility in a way that meets the needs of our community now and in the future.

“Failure to approve these funds will result in a reduction of nearly 250 beds at the new CJC, requiring more inmates to be permanently housed at the Harding Place complex.

“Additionally, we both agree that it makes financial and logistical sense for the DCSO administrative functions to be consolidated, and are committed to an open community engagement process that ensures residents and business owners near the final location of the future  DCSO administrative offices are supportive of the project.

“In order for this process to move forward, we would request that the Council authorize the expenditure of $20 million for the headquarters while a final site is determined.

“We look forward to working together, with the Metro Council and the community, to work through any other logistical details of these two projects in a way that protects the interests of the taxpayers and the safety of the citizens of Davidson County.”

The Mayor and Sheriff are not the only ones who agree that the project should go forward.  One vocal opponent, South Nashville Representative Sam Cole-man,  is now encouraging his residents and constituents to support the project.

“We’ve had many issues with the CJC Building relocation of the inmates coming to South Nashville,”  said Councilman Coleman.   “We also have to be a little understanding.  I suggest that my fellow Southeast Council members and residents support the project.”

Some of the residents in Southeast Nashville have expressed that they are “afraid inmates who are supposed to be temporarily housed, will end up staying.”

To allay those fears, Coleman said that there have been some miscommunications, but that no one is going to “voodoo or hoodoo” residents.

“We know exactly what’s going on.  Maybe all the information is not in the hands of the residents at this time, but I can safely say that we’re not sitting by idle and letting anyone pull anything over our eyes.”

Last year, a bill was narrowly defeated that would have funded the move of the Nashville Jail from downtown, to Harding road.  Instead, the Council chose the costlier option of voting to renovate the current building.

What does the DCSO do?

Many people confuse the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) with the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD). Though they tend to work closely together, the Sheriff’s Office is a completely different entity from the Police Department. The Sheriff’s department does not engage in criminal law enforcement such as moving violations and the investigation of criminal activity.

Their primary responsibility is the care and custody of the inmates and service of civil warrants. All jails within the county are the responsibility of the Sheriff as well as approximately 4,000 inmates. Nearly 900 employees make up the DCSO and it is the most racially diverse large agency in Metro Government. Sheriff’s office employees book arrestees brought to the jail by Metro police (and also every citation), DCSO employees supervise road crews daily that cut grass, pick up litter, do various work for non-profits, and bulk item pick-up, run a work release program, is responsible for the pre-trial release division, and has an active community outreach program where employees volunteer their time to assist at various community events.

Involvement in the community includes: IMF Member (Inter-Denomina-tional Fellowship), Life-Cycle Conference – partners with Saint James MBC past two years, Urban League of Middle TN (job fairs), Rep. Harold Love Healthy Start back-to-school event at Hadley Park, Share-A-Share program partnered with Second Harvest to provide food for families in the Bordeaux community, Jobs for Life operating in three jails and eight African-American churches, TSU: parade, internships, color guard, and prayer breakfast, job placement in the culinary industry by placing workers at Swetts, Hope Breaks the Silence Conference hosted by the Suicide Prevention Network and the African-American Faith Committee hosted at the Saint James MBC, C.E. McGruder Family Resource Centers- Red and White Affair for seniors in the African American Community, and the MLK March.

Additionally, the sheriff’s office has a commitment of improving the lives of inmates while they are incarcerated so they can live productive lives once released. The DCSO offers a variety of programs including a 45-day, state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment program, a batterer’s intervention program, AA, NA, parenting classes, HiSET high school equivalency classes and testing, cell dog program, vocational training including cosmetology, career training partnership with Miller-Motte Technical College, work release program, personal finance classes as well as events for inmates’ children including an annual Easter egg hunt.