TDOC figures reveal nearly 1.4 percent of state under correctional supervision

By Julie Fann

Star Staff
jfann@starhq.com

  
Figures released by Tennessee Department of Corrections officials Wednesday reveal that approximately 1.4 percent of the state's population are either behind bars or on probation or parole. Steve Hayes, Public Information Officer for TDOC, said the state's projection reflects nationwide trends.
  
"The trends speak to increasing inmate populations nationwide, and our projections verify those trends. I believe that an increase in crime and longer sentences are keeping people behind bars longer," Hayes said.
   The state's population, according to 2001 census results, equals 5,740,021, while those who are behind bars, on probation, or on parole total approximately 87,111, according to June and August 2002 figures released by TDOC.
   Approximately 17,673 individuals are TDOC inmates while 20,871 are housed in local jails. Persons reported on probation totaled 35,097 and those on parole totaled 7,890 as of June 30. Those who are currently under community corrections programs total 5,580.
   The Tennessee Department of Corrections also reported the state's felony population alone will rise to nearly 30,000 by June 2011. TDOC officials used a state-of-the-art computer software program to generate results for the projection.
   Hayes said various data were taken into consideration using a forecasting model adopted by approximately 30 states.
   "It includes data such as the current incarcerated population in all facilities. Also factored in is the state's overall and projected population, inmate admission and release data, parole and probation patterns, and Tennessee criminal codes, or sentencing laws," he said.
   The state's projections are checked on a monthly basis, and if they are not within two percent of the actual population, then the model is re-cast, according to Hayes.
   Figures reveal that the systemwide total of felons for the fiscal year 1985-86 was 9,961 compared to 24,235 for the month of August 2002.
   Howard Carlton, Northeast Correctional Facility warden, said the inmate population there, which includes those housed at the Carter County Work Camp in Roan Mountain, totals 1,800. Carlton said the population continues to increase.
   "We'll be going to 1,850, so I guess we'll be full. We have about another 50 beds to fill. We added 80 last week. There are more beds in east Tennessee than west Tennessee, so as inmates want to move closer to home and show good behavior, they move them back here," Carlton said.
   Carter County Jail officials are constantly dealing with the problem of over-crowding. Sgt. Wendell Treadway said there are currently 160 inmates while there is only room for 112.
   "We provide mattresses for them, so some of them have to sleep on the floor," said Treadway. "We're considering renovating the chapel upstairs so that we can have more room."
   Treadway said the problem exists mainly with pre-trial felons who may end up spending as much as two years in jail awaiting trial.
   "They receive a mental evaluation and then the court continues waiting on evidence, especially murder cases, high-profile cases," he said.
   According to the Associated Press, one in every 32 adults in the United States was behind bars or on probation or parole by the end of last year, resulting in 6.6 million people in the nation's correctional system.
   The number of adults under supervision by the criminal justice system rose by 147,700, or 2.3 percent, between 2000 and 2001, the Justice Department reported. In 1990, almost 4.4 million adults were incarcerated.
   "The overall figures suggest that we've come to rely on the criminal justice system as a way of responding to social problems in a way that's unprecedented," said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, an advocacy and research group that favors alternatives to incarceration. "We're setting a new record every day."