$21 million: Estimated total cost of new jail at completion
400: Inmate beds
26: Additional correctional officers needed to staff new jail
40: Approximate acreage at new jail property
Source: Coffee County government

MANCHESTER, Tenn. -- Inmates, jailers and sheriff's deputies at the old Coffee County Jail should make the move into new quarters in eight to 10 weeks.

"We're looking at late April, early May," Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves said Wednesday.

Crews are wrapping up interior concrete finishing work and officials are moving some items from the old jail to the new, $21 million lockup on the east side of Manchester.

About 26 more jailers will be needed to staff the 400-bed jail and training is under way for a few at a time, Graves said. The additional officers meet state staffing requirements.

"We're closer than we were, but we're not going to get in a hurry. We want to do it right the first time," Graves said. Changes and modifications are easier to do before the building is occupied, he noted.

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The new, 400-bed Coffee County Jail is almost ready for occupancy. Sheriff Steve Graves hopes to move inmates into the jail in the next eight to 10 weeks.

Current inmates will be classified according to their criminal histories, behavior record, gang affiliations and severity of charges as they are moved over in small groups. New arrestees will be classified the same way and booked directly into the new jail, Graves said.

County Commissioner and jail review committee member Tim Morris said the jail is designed to serve the county for years to come.

The old jail was opened around 1982 with space for about 190 beds, including its workhouse, and houses around 300 prisoners now.

The new jail, like many across the region, uses an expandable pod system. New 200-bed pods can be added as needed, and support facilities like the kitchen and laundry are already sized to serve more prisoners.

Even with 400 beds, capacity could be an issue given the number of probationers in Coffee County, Morris said.

"There are between 1,200 and 1,400 people in this county who are on probation," he said. If just 10 percent of them violated probation and were jailed, it would add more than 100 people to the prisoner population.

That's why officials also are eyeing the old jail building as a possible workhouse for work release and trusty inmates to work off their jail time, Morris said. It could also offer housing for overflow from the new jail for up to 60 inmates at need. The cost of conversion is estimated at $500,000.

A workhouse would also keep apart violent and nonviolent offenders, which should reduce incidents among inmates and associated medical costs for the county, he said.

Morris said 911 officials also are studying the idea of converting part of the old jail into a new 911 center. That could take the place of a plan to erect a replacement 911 building on state Highway 55 next to the existing site between Manchester and Tullahoma.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton or or or 423-757-6569.