The Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved nearly $6.3 million in upgrades to the Silverdale Detention Center's security system.
The decision to fund the improvements came after Hamilton County sheriff's officials informed the commission of outdated and inadequate cameras and other security equipment when the county took over operations in 2021.
The county previously had no oversight or inspection responsibilities for the privately-run jail and its security system, Sheriff Jim Hammond said in a phone interview after the meeting. That would have been the responsibility of the Tennessee Corrections Institute.
The Tennessee Corrections Institute did not respond to requests for comment.
"If there was anything that was wrong, the Tennessee Corrections Institute would be the one writing them up," Hammond said.
From the beginning, the Silverdale facility never had adequate security technology required for a maximum-security lockup, Jimi Hammond, the sheriff's office IT manager, said last week.
Almost a third of the existing Pelco cameras at the prison, which are more than two decades old, are inoperable, officials said. In addition, the cameras only record in standard definition and therefore have poor quality footage that can hinder potential evidence for prosecutors if a crime takes place in the facility.
Due to a lack of storage capabilities, any evidence captured by the cameras would be lost completely if the security system were to fail, Jimi Hammond said.
Hamilton County Commission chair Sabrena Smedley, R- Ooltewah, said she wasn't aware of the state being responsible for inspecting the prison.
"In terms of being secure, it definitely does need to be secure," Smedley said. "The employees need to be protected; the prisoners need to be protected."
Also of note, all the facility's intercoms are offline, and some of the locks at the facility fail to meet the fire code. In total, 49 of the 115 electronic entry locks require repair.
The installation of all the new security measures is expected to take 13 months.
The sheriff's office took over the Silverdale Detention Center after private jail operator CoreCivic ended its management at the end of 2020 in a dispute over fees.