published Friday, July 1st, 2011

Graham can’t stop vote on corrections office furniture

County Commissioner Joe Graham lost a bid Thursday to scuttle a vote on $30,000 in office furniture for the county’s new community corrections office in Red Bank.

The furniture was on the list of agenda items for Wednesday’s upcoming commission meeting.

Graham objected that the commission had heard complaints in early June that some offenders were having trouble reporting to the office because of transportation problems.

The office was moved in May. Former Chattanooga Judge Walter Williams complained June 1 that many offenders don’t have cars and CARTA doesn’t run in Red Bank.

“[Moving] community corrections [to] an area where there’s no transportation, what you’re saying is you want these defendants to fail,” Williams said at the time.

Graham said Thursday that commissioners had decided to study the issue for 90 days. He said he would vote next week against the furniture purchase, “not knowing if the department’s going to stay there or not.”

Community Corrections Director Barbara Payne said that from the time the office opened May 3 through last week, 2,157 out of 2,257 people scheduled to report to the Red Bank office did so. She said 2,849 who report at will — anytime during a given time frame — checked in, as well.

Payne said having 100 fail to report is about average.

Commissioner Greg Beck opposed Graham, saying the furniture was ordered before the June 1 meeting and that though “we’ve had reports of problems” in community corrections, “I see no reason to deny this.”

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the program’s old building is to be condemned and demolished.

“These are people who committed crimes on our county,” Coppinger said. “They found transportation when they committed the crime.”

He said offenders in community corrections have a choice — they can report or go to jail.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry ordered the furniture purchase kept on the agenda for next week’s vote.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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