By Becky Killian
Knox County Jailer Mary Hammons estimates her jail has saved about $200,000 over the past two years since an early release program has been instituted at the jail that requires inmates to undergo a substance abuse program called “Prime 4 Life.”
Hammons updated the Knox County Fiscal Court on the savings during the court’s meeting Wednesday.
The 20-hour education program focuses on alcohol and drug prevention and intervention. In Knox County, the program director is Vivian Bingham, who retired from Knox County Public Schools after a 29-year career as a teacher and guidance counselor. For the past 13 years, Bingham has served as a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor.
Inmates who complete the program can see their misdemeanor sentences reduced by 25 percent. Those inmates who obtain their GED while in jail can also see a 25 percent sentence reduction in their misdemeanor sentences; those inmates who complete the substance abuse program and get their GEDs can see a misdemeanor sentence reduction of 35 percent, Hammons said.
Hammons estimated the county’s savings based upon the $30 daily charge the county incurs for housing inmates.
The Knox County Jail is a 35-bed facility, so Hammons said most of the county’s 200 plus inmates are housed in jails in other counties.