Hamilton County looking into privatizing all local jails

An unidentified Hamilton County inmate waits to be re-admitted to his holding cell on the second floor of the Hamilton County Jail.

photo Jim Coppinger

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger says the county is going to seek a consultant to look into privatization of the county's jails.

Coppinger told commissioners during a budget work session today that he would soon come to the commission and ask for them to hire PFM consulting firm to research the move.

The county's contract with Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Silverdale facility, runs out in April next year. And Coppinger said he's been talking to CCA about taking over all of the county's jails.

"We are looking at total privatization of our jails and our Silverdale workhouse," Coppinger told commissioners.

Costs at Silverdale increased by $1 million in the proposed 2016 budget, due to a population increase of 7.1 percent at the work house.

And the cost of housing prisoners at the jail is ever-increasing, Coppinger said. And the county will eventually have to build a new jail.

Coppinger said CCA can run the jail cheaper than the county, and it could greatly reduce the cost and liability to the taxpayers.

But hiring PFM to research the move will have its own cost.

"It will not be cheap to hire this consultant, it will be six figures," Coppinger said.

Stay with the Chattanooga Times Free Press for more details.