State says 201 Poplar needs to be repaired or replaced

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A report from the state inspector says Shelby County leaders must find a way to fix or replace the Criminal Justice Center.

The inspector’s report says the building is outdated and antiquated with doors, locks, security devices, showers, security systems and various other items being difficult and nearly impossible to maintain or replace.

The report also noted electrical, plumbing, and climate controls should be extensively examined for widespread repair or replacement.

Chief Jailer Kirk Fields says the building is nearly 40 years old but the daily functions are taking a toll on it.

“National standards tell us for every one year that a jail is operational, that jail ages three to four years in age,” Fields said. “With that building being 39 years of age, wear and tear, daily usage, years are probably 160 years old.”

The state inspector first noted in the 2017 report the building was deteriorating and in 2018, the inspector reported improvements to the roof were being made. The 2019 report said those repairs were not enough.

“Do you think folks at home have any idea how bad it is?” Fields said. “No. No. Part of that is because I have an excellent maintenance staff that goes above and beyond to make sure the building remains operable.”

The recent report did commend the Shelby County Sheriff’s office for maintaining the building “that’s outlived its intended purpose.”

Fields says local law enforcement are working on getting the state to help figure out what needs to be done at this jail and how much it will cost. Then, the information will be given to county leaders.

“This could be pricey,” Fields said but he was not clear how much it could cost.

The 2019 report also noted that staffing at CJC is low and there are 152 open positions.

Fields say that is still the case but they hope to have a new class that will begin in July.

“With the recent change by the commission with the residency policy, we hope to see it improve,” Fields said. “We have professional staff doing an outstanding job but we are working in a building that is gradually aging on us. We have to begin the conversation on how to address the issue.”

WREG reached out to Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, who was copied on all of the inspection reports, but have not heard back.

WREG also reached out to County Commissioner Tami Sawyer who requested to see the reports but she says she is out of town until Friday.

The document below shows the state’s report on 201 Poplar from 2018 and 2019.

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