Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell in Memphis is poised to wage an ambitious campaign to convince the public and local elected officials that the county needs a new jail that could cost $200 million, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. A new 3,000- to 3,500-bed lockup would replace jail that opened in 1981. With projected operational savings of nearly $20 million a year — achieved by designing a more efficient jail requiring fewer staffers — Luttrell said a new facility could pay for itself within a decade and provide at least another 15 to 20 years of life after it’s paid off.
Last year, the county government considered contracting with a private firm to take over management of the inmate population, generating opposition from labor and community activists who feared the impact on jobs. Luttrell rejected private firms’ proposals. After visiting jails elsewhere, “the sheriff is absolutely convinced, and I think we all are after seeing some of these other facilities operate, that we can take our staff from 1,150 down to 800, 850 without a whole lot of trouble,” said Harvey Kennedy, chief administrative officer for the Sheriff’s Office. The biggest problem for the current jail is that too many jailers are needed to supervise the 2,500 inmates who are incarcerated. The jail has 40-bed living units, which require an officer in each unit.