Photo: Silverdale Detention Center at 7609 Standifer Gap Rd, Chattanooga, TN
Photo Credit: Rosie Brown
Published January 12, 2021
Hamilton County, TN – Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is under scrutiny once again less than a week after headlines raised concerns about investigation into the most recent inmate death.
Information coming from those connected to current inmates and a confession of used force from HSCO have sparked intense inquiry into conditions at Silverdale.
Allegations of severe neglect and abuse of power have been made by several family and friends of inmates currently residing in Silverdale Detention Center.
The claims report that individuals are being refused food, phone calls, personal hygiene, or essential medications. There are also suspicions of excessive force including potentially unnecessary use of mace or tasers.
One friend of a presently incarcerated individual expressed as part of her statement a sentiment that most can appreciate, “I understand that they are inmates but still they don’t deserve to be treated like this…”
In response to one of the many allegations, HCSO confirmed prior to the weekend that correctional officers had deployed a pepper ball gun in order to regain compliance within the facility on Thursday night.
A spokesman for the detention center described the scenario as being incited by “unruly or threatening inmates,” but no further details have been released at this time.
For anyone unfamiliar, pepper ball guns are generally shot in the same manner as a paintball gun and with the same force. However, rather than paint, the ammunition contains a tear gas variant that can severely incapacitate individuals and eliminate opportunities for defense afforded by standard tear gas canisters. This type of munition has been deployed against protestors across the country over the last year including.
Despite what seems to be a general lack of control within the center, the county approved 200 extra temporary bunks for new inmates, apparently ignoring risks of overcrowding, poor conditions, and COVID-19 risks to the residents.
Recently released inmates have expressed that those incarcerated are additionally not being provided with appropriate personal protective equipment.
Three weeks ago, an inmate reported that in order to receive essential medications for a pre-existing condition they had to act out and “cause a scene” more than once.
Local crisis staff, who have requested to remain anonymous, have echoed this concern as well as a great deal of frustration with the detention center over the last few years.
One mental health worker that spent some time working in the jail prior to CoreCivic transitioning power to HCSO reported deplorable conditions and complaints that fell on deaf ears.
One former lead nurse has expressed serious concern about the danger and futility of prescribing new psychiatric medications to individuals diverted from jail because once incarcerated, “it’s not like they’ll get them anyway.”
There appears to be an ongoing pattern of neglect and abuse within Silverdale that existed prior to but appears to have escalated since operational control was assumed by HCSO.
The Sheriff’s Office has postponed official tours despite remarks of good confidence from Commissioner Sharpe.
HSCO has reported plans for a press conference later today to address these issues and potentially other questions that have been raised.