SHERIFF: Inmates start fire in Roane Co. jail to protest overcrowding

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) — The Roane County Sheriff is dealing with another problem. He says inmates set a fire at the jail Saturday night, leading to a full response from fire and police crews from all over the county.

The sheriff says with over a hundred inmates in a jail designed for half that many, frustration sometimes leads to problems like this. This situation ended without any injuries. An overcrowding solution is on the way. The sheriff hopes it comes before the next problem.

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Jack Stockton, Roane County Sheriff, says, “Overcrowding’s always been a problem and that was a factor the other night and that’s what they claim, the reason they did what they did was to just get some attention on the overcrowding issue that we’re dealing with at this time.”

The sheriff says he moved five inmates to jails in Anderson and Loudon Counties after the fire. He says he’ll pursue criminal charges against the fire starters. But it’s the powder keg of overcrowding that worries him most.

“We have about double what the state says we’re allowed to hold and we had some problems with a decertification back in the fall and we’re still under that status at this time due to the overcrowding issue.”

Crews are rolling in beds at the new 172 inmate jail across the road. The sheriff says this will east the overcrowding problem for a while. But the new jail won’t open for at least another seven months. Stockton says when it does, space alone won’t cure all that ails the jail.

“We’re going to need several more staff to control the new facility or we’re going to end up with another issue like we had Saturday where we won’t have enough people to control an issue if something gets out of hand.”

The sheriff says officers are looking closely at the video and other evidence. He says once that investigation is done, he plans to prosecute those responsible fully. So the inmates’ fiery protest about the overcrowded jail could mean they’ll have to spend more time in it.



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