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Rhea County Prisoners Feeling the Heat

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Published on Jul 11, 2012

Things are heating up in the Rhea County Jail.. Viewers started contacting us last week about a lack of air conditioning in the cells. Turns out, the county was aware of the problem and took care of it Thursday morning. But we still wanted to know why inmates weren't being taken care of properly in the first place. You may remember that the Rhea County Jail lost its certification right around this same time last year. That's because of overcrowding. So, the county approved plans to build a new facility, and it got back its certification. But, they haven't even broken ground yet, and the overcrowding finally took its toll on inmates and guards alike. Huge fans have been keeping inmates relatively cool during the most-recent heat wave. Chief Deputy John Argo explains the problem.  "Back in 1962, it was a smaller facility, so the units put on top were smaller units. There wasn't such a need for supply for the air. Especially with the overcrowding now, it just overworks the units." That's why Rhea County executive George Thacker called an emergency meeting this week, voting to spend ,000 on upgrades and a new, larger unit. Installation started Thursday morning and will take a few days to finish. "It's not just like putting them in a regular home because you've got a concrete ceiling, so it's complicated to get more air in here, it's not just as simple as you would think," said Thacker. Tiffany Yates was visiting a friend at the jail. She says she can't believe the county let it get that hot in the first place. "I think it's a little sad. All of them are in here because of something they did, so they're being punished. I would say it's a little extreme, I'd say it's extreme," said Yates. According to the Tennessee Corrections Institute, temperatures in sleeping and activity areas are supposed to stay below 80 degrees. "We have to do things by federal and state laws and that's what we're trying to do, trying to keep our taxes as low as we can and keep rolling with it," said Thacker. The jail is meant hold a total of 87 inmates. When we were there Thursday, there were 167. Most of the fans in use were donated by inmates' family members.

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