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Knox Co. lowers jailer age requirement, raises wages and cuts nearly 30 positions

An 18-year-old could soon make a starting salary of $50,100 in Knox County as a corrections officer.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Knox County Sheriff's Office is getting the most significant one-year pay raise in county history.

On Monday, commissioners voted to award officers in the jail a 27% raise. This comes just months after the commission voted to lower correctional officer age requirements to 18 years old. 

"Our new pay will be 48% higher than the current state average for corrections and for patrol it will be 20% higher than the state average," said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. 

Knox County officials said the corrections officer pay is significant because that's where the department has the most vacancies

"Doing the right thing is working toward fixing the pay for hard-working men and women who put their life on the line. The line that separates good and evil," said Tom Spangler, the Knox County Sheriff. "They deserve it. Knox County deserves the best standing watch over them."

That means an 18-year-old could soon make a starting salary of $50,100 in Knox County. So far, KCSO said it has only seen two applicants falling in the age group. 

In Monroe County, people as young as 18 years old have been allowed to work in corrections for years. 

"Some 18-year-olds are mature enough and some are not," said Todd Bible, a Monroe County Lieutenant. "Nothing against patrol, but they're with these arrestees. I mean it could be as little as five minutes or however long they are on scene. We are with them 24 hours a day, until the court process goes through or they move on to TDOC, so it takes a special person to work in the jail."

Bible said MCSO rarely finds someone at that age who can handle the job and said the youngest jailer in Monroe County is 20 years old.

"Working in the jail is not for everybody," Bible said. 

In the Knox County budget, there is no money for additional training. The sheriff also opted to cut 29 corrections officer positions. 

"I started as a night shift sergeant at the old jail and we would run it sometimes with three people, and that is extremely dangerous in my opinion, so being fully staffed helps," said Bible.

Since additional training wasn't included in the budget, Spangler said he will now focus on a career development program for his officers, providing opportunities for training and advancement.

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