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One month after three inmates escaped the Grainger County jail, Monday night county commissioners approved to finance structural improvements at the facility.

At their regular monthly meeting, Grainger commissioners unanimously approved $165,000 in capitol outlay funds to buy several new items for the jail. This includes new locks, already approved by commissioners at a recent meeting.

Included in that funding:

  • Locks, priced $64,000
  • Perimeter fence, priced at $37,882
  • Security cameras, priced at $29,000
  • Computer system, priced at $29,000

Grainger County Chief Deputy Charles Biddle is pleased the jail will get everything he says it needs.

"It will be night and day [difference] to security. As it is right now, we have so many blind spots, no fence," he listed. "That's the reason so many windows get broken out so they can get drugs in. Now with fence we've got perimeter like we should have."

He adds, "As far as the cameras, now we can record anything that's going on in the jail just about anywhere."

Biddle says he believes these new additions should bring the jail into compliance during the next inspection.

"I hope we learn a lot from this," said Dan Brooks, who lives in Grainger County and attended the commission meeting Monday night. "There's no excuse for our county to be this bad, as far as law enforcement."

Brooks said he's pleased with the commission's vote to approve jail improvement funding, but feels the delay was unnecessary.

"It's strange, tonight was unanimous – but that was good. It was definitely the right decision. I wish they'd made it two weeks ago at the called meeting. But, it was a good decision."

Grainger County Mayor Mark Hipsher has already ordered the locks. The county purchased 32 from Willo Products, an Alabama-based company that specializes in jail security features. Hipsher says it should take about six weeks for the locks to be installed.

Hispher expects the fencing installation sometime within the next two weeks. He ordered a 1,200-foot standard prison perimeter fence.

Biddle says the additional security cameras should help cover current blind spots within the jail. The computer system helps run all the different technology in the facility.

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