Sheriff Daron Hall is trying to put himself out of business. He believes that the job of the sheriff’s office is to try and release people from jail better off than when they came to jail. To Hall, the main difference between his office and the police department is: “Police arrest the person. We try and arrest the problem.”
“I’ve never understood why we cut ribbons and celebrate the opening of jails,” said Hall. “I always wanted to be around long enough to see a jail close and we’ve done that.”
In 2011, Hall’s administration closed the 300-bed Offender Re-Entry Center due to drastically low inmate numbers. A jail study was completed nearly 20 years ago and indicated more jail beds would be needed by the year 2014. Today, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) has 1,600 empty beds.
Under Hall’s direction, and thanks to his dedication of improving the lives of those incarcerated so they can become productive citizens upon release, the inmate population in Davidson County has decreased by 26%. For the first time in Nashville history, fewer jail beds are being built. As he continues this effort, he is also passionate about decriminalizing the mentally ill, is currently working towards criminal justice improvements for this population, and also is dedicating time and energy to tackle the issue of over incarceration.
“The work we do saves lives,” said Hall. “If we don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised when people come back to jail.”
Sheriff Hall graduated from Antioch High School in 1982 and went to Western Kentucky University where he played football and earned a B.A. degree with an emphasis in criminology.
In 1988, he began working at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office as a counselor in the jails, soon becoming director of counseling and then assistant administrator for the Criminal Justice Center. In 1994, Hall became chief deputy and eight years later he became the youngest sheriff ever elected in the history of Metropolitan Government.
Since then, Hall has been elected Sheriff four times in a row due to his commitment to public safety and 25 years of experience in the criminal justice field. Under his leadership, the DCSO is the most diverse government agency and the only agency of its kind in the United States fully accredited by the American Correctional Association. The agency also boasts one of the lowest officer turnover rates in the country.
Sheriff Hall is seen as an expert in his field, and served as the 101st president of the American Correctional Association. He was the first sheriff ever elected to this position in the organization’s 141-year history.
Hall is also dedicated to the community that he has always called home. He is currently a board member of the Exchange Club Family Center and has affiliations with many community organizations, including Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, Boy Scouts Council of Middle Tennessee, and the Rochelle Center to name a few.
In 2003, the Tennessean selected him as a ‘Top 40 Under 40’ for his leadership and community involvement. Additionally, the February 2004 edition of Business Tennessee magazine recognized Hall as one of Tennessee’s ‘40 Under 40.’ In 2005, he received the Women’s Political Caucus ‘Good Guy’ award as well as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) ‘Ambassador of Hope’ award and in 2006 he was recognized as committing his life to justice and reconciliation by receiving Dismas’ ‘Jack Hickey’ award. Finally, in 2012, he received the Nashville Prevention Partnership Lifetime Achievement award for his career-long commitment to battling substance abuse for those incarcerated and beyond.
Sheriff Daron Hall is driven in his desire to help inmates in pursuit of the reason ‘why.’ His desire to understand the ‘why’ has been passed along to his staff and presents a positive culture in an environment that many consider negative. His never-ending commitment to this exploration has impacted Davidson County inmates through offender programming. The hope is an inmate can figure out the ‘why,’ change his or her behavior, and not commit more crimes upon release; therefore, becoming incarcerated again.
Hall’s goal is “to make offenders taxpayers, not tax burdens—ultimately making Nashville a better city.”
Things to know about the CJC project
Movement of extra inmates to the Harding facility is temporary. There are absolutely no plans to expand the number of beds at the Harding Complex. Once the construction is complete, the maximum-security inmates will move back downtown to the new 1,000 bed jail.
A new DCSO headquarters will save taxpayers money. Currently, the sheriff’s office has 253 employees working out of five different buildings across the city. In an effort to consolidate/share services and run more efficiently, Sheriff Hall believes these various functions should operate out of one central location. The savings on utility bills alone will pay for the new facility.
District 13 wants the new headquarters. Though there has been pushback from a bordering district, District 13 Council lady Holly Huezo fully supports locating the DCSO headquarters in her area. Also in support is Councilman Steve Glover who represents District 12, which is the closest bordering district to the site. The project has also received support from unlikely allies such as District 33 Councilman Sam Coleman and Mayor Megan Barry. Opposition to the headquarters has primarily come from areas further away.
DCSO has been seeking public input. Over the past few months, DCSO has been giving tours and conducting and attending community meetings to get public input.
The plans have changed. The headquarters designed last year was just under 57,000 square feet; however, that proposed design was part of the master plan to move all jail operations to the Harding Complex and that plan was, ultimately, defeated.
General Services is in charge of the jail construction project, so any questions related to construction time schedules, construction build questions, cost-related questions, etc., would need to be directed to Nancy Whittemore.