Coffee County sheriff making room in jail before Bonnaroo - WSMV Channel 4

Coffee County sheriff making room in jail before Bonnaroo

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MANCHESTER, TN (WSMV) -

It's Bonnaroo time in Coffee County, and law enforcement officials are gearing up by making room in the county jail.

Authorities say they typically make a few dozen arrests at the annual music festival, but the Coffee County Jail is already way over capacity.

"I'm having to use my tanks here, which are not living conditions to house people. It doesn't have a shower, so we have to make sure people get out and get a shower every day. That's just how overcrowded we are," said jail employee Rick Gentry.

Sheriff Steve Graves is well aware his jail is too small for the amount of people he's keeping in it. The facility is packed to the brim with inmates, where some sleep on makeshift beds on the floor and use towels as curtains.

"Even though we're overcrowded, we're not going to turn a blind eye," Graves said.

The jail is certified to hold 193 inmates. Last week, the sheriff says there were 300 people locked up.

"When we get up to 300, we start trying to get people out and start asking other jails to hold them," Graves said.

The sheriff fears the overcrowding will only get worse when thousands of people come to Coffee County this week to attend Bonnaroo.

"They're not a big burden to us, but it adds population to the jail," he said.

Graves says the jail usually takes in about 40 to 50 offenders at the music festival, usually for domestic crimes, assault or drug sales.

Coffee County has been dealing with overcrowding for more than a decade. Its new jail will open at the beginning of August, and until it's ready, Graves says he's been working closely with the fire marshal.

"We have a good fire safety plan, and we try to make sure doors are cleared in case of an emergency," Graves said.

The sheriff's new battle will be a funding fight with the county. He says he'll need to hire a couple dozen more jail officers for the new facility.

Commissioners will take up jail staffing at their meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Coffee County Administrative Plaza.

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