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Roane Co. inmates limited to educational TV programming | News

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Roane Co. inmates limited to educational TV programming


(WBIR- Roane County) While most East Tennessee jails allow inmates some TV time, Roane County officials put a restriction on the remote controls, limiting television programming to educational channels for those behind bars.

Each pod, except the mmaximum security pod, has one television, and until about a month ago, inmates were able to watch all Comcast programming.

"TV is a privilege," said Tim Phillips, Chief Deputy with the Roane County Sheriff's Department .

Now, Phillips keeps a close eye on the privilege, and jail staff is in charge of the remote controls.

"We've limited it to the History Channel, Discovery Channel, A&E, things like that, stuff that we think they could get a little education out of ," said Phillips.

Phillips said watching television is a reward for inmates, since some jails, like Blount County, don't allow inmates to watch any TV at all.

"People don't think they should have TVs at all," said Phillips. "But if I can put a TV in a pod, and keep them from burning the jail down, or tearing things up."

Back in August of 2013, inmates plotted an escape plan and almost got away with it. They unwound links to an outdoor, recreational area fence, creating a hole that could have unraveled to a big enough size for a person to crawl out of.

Now, a new fence is under construction.

"To try to bend this out, to start unwinding the fence, I don't see it happening," said Phillips, illustrating how strong the new wiring is.

That was just one problem jail officers battled. Overcrowding is still an ongoing issue.

"Right now, we have 185 people in jail today. We have a 174-bed jail. Last month, we had 165 people. We have been as low as 155. And we have been as high as 260. So, and it looks like our population is starting to go back up," said Phillips.

The Deputy Chief said one way to help keep the inmate count down is by preventing criminals from coming back. About a year ago, Roane County started a GED program for inmates that seems to have already made a positive impact.

"To date, we've probably had about 30 people take the GED test and pass it and since then, we've probably seen two people out of 30 come back, so maybe that GED program has worked to keep them out of jail "

Phillips said earning a GED helps inmates reenter society when they're released. While a lot of inmates don't like the new TV restrictions, he says it's another way to promote learning while they're behind bars.

Roane County also offers faith-based programs, along with alcohol addiction and narcotics addiction help for inmates.


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