Sweating out jail time

Sweating out jail time

June 4th, 2011 by Beth Burger in News

Micah Wilkerson sits in front of a fan inside of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in Chattanooga in order to cool down from the rising temperatures inside the building while the motor for the air conditioner awaits repairs. In order to accommodate the heat, the inmates were permitted to wear their jumpsuits to their waists and were given Popsicles. Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Extra hours of late-night television.

About 1,800 ice-cold Popsicles.

Twenty floor fans to keep the air circulating.

One water-chilled unit constantly blowing.

That's what's necessary to keep the peace while one of the air conditioning units is broken at the Hamilton County Jail, Corrections Capt. John Swope said.

"You have to realize in jail, you don't get desserts. You don't get sweets. We just don't do that," he said.

A motor went out on one of the jail's air conditioning units six weeks ago, but went unnoticed until the weather warmed up recently.

Now it will be Monday, at least, until the air conditioning is restored.

The unit that controls the booking area and the kitchen is out.

"It's kind of a losing battle between opening the doors, closing the doors. As you can see, when you open the doors, the heat comes all the way into booking because there's nothing to block it out," Swope said when asked about the cooling efforts.

Otherwise, the six floors of the jail remain at a comfortable temperature with the other unit still working, he said.

The 508 inmates at the jail are allowed to lower the tops of their jump suits, and corrections deputies can don polo shirts in the meantime.

And cold lunches may be served rather than hot meals, Swope said, if it becomes necessary.

The extra perks are made in an effort to keep tempers from rising along with the temperature and cut down on the chance of fights, he said.

"We're giving them a little break as long as they behave themselves," Swope said.