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Blind Vendors denied contract to work at Montgomery County Jail

 

michael.jpgThe Leaf Chronicle’s newspaper history can be traced back to 1808. It has survived a tornado and numerous leadership changes.

Being the oldest newspaper in print in Clarksville – Montgomery County, though,  can be both an advantage and a handicap when it comes to providing the community detailed coverage of the news of the day.

Thanks to the internet, we “news heads” have many sources to chose from to help fill the gaps corporate news groups sometime create to meet the bottom line. I would like to thank the Leaf Chronicle news paper for printing the numerous stories that I have either submitted or been involved in, but sometimes they fall just a little short in getting the complete idea of what the person they are interviewing is trying to say.

The following is a letter in its entirety I submitted to local and nationwide chat rooms in an effort to plug up the holes that appeared in the article that ran in the Leaf Chronicle about the closing of the commissary inside the Montgomery County [TN] Jail.

All I am about to reveal can be verified by requesting a copy of the written and audio minutes of the Montgomery County Jail and Juvenile Detention Committee Meeting for August 2, 2007.

Here are just a few things that the Leaf Chronicle failed to mention during my interview with them:

  • There would be no dispute with the Committee of Blind Vendors of Tennessee Business Enterprises if the Sheriff would have honored the law and given them the commissary contract that they won in the first place. The County Attorney, Austin Peay VII, told Sheriff Lewis months ago that based on three opinions from the State Attorney General’s Office that the Blind Vendors have first right of refusal to operate the commissary and that the Sheriff’s Department could not run the commissary. Sheriff Lewis and Chief Patterson stated that Montgomery County should contest this opinion and the County Attorney noted that there is legislation that supports this organization and all counties who have tried to fight this have lost.
  • County Commissioner Skinner asked what the outcome would be if the Sheriff’s department did nothing on this issue. County Attorney Austin Peay VII said the county could be sued and/or the Sheriff could be held liable for violating the law.
  • I expressed concern to the Leaf Chronicle about negative comments that Sheriff Lewis has made at committee meetings about the disabled and against the Blind Vendors. I went on to tell the Leaf Chronicle that vending opportunities like this are sometimes the only opportunities disabled people can get for employment and this is a clear violation of their civil rights;a very serious lawsuit could come the county’s way if the commissary was not reopened.
  • I believe that the inmates at the jail should not have to suffer because of ill personal feelings that the Sheriff has for this organization. The State of Tennessee Attorney General is the highest legal mind in the state, so how does one not abide by his decision?
  • With an already over populated jail, food rations are already small and to some, the commissary is the only means to extra food. Many of the personal hygiene items have to be purchased by the inmates, but the commissary being closed increases the possibility of a bad health epidemic breaking out among the jail population, one which could spread to the deputy sheriffs and other jailers, and then into the Clarksville population.
  • The County Attorney was trying his best to relay to the Sheriff, during the jail committee meeting and without challenging his authority, that the law is on the side of the Blind Vendors, who should have never been replaced by another company after winning the contracting bid. The law is also on the side of the inmates, who can also sue the county for numerous violations that may come about if this issue is not resolved very soon.

The Blind Vendors fall under the umbrella of one of the strongest disability laws in the nation, and we, the tax paying citizens of Montgomery County, should not have to foot the bill for lawsuits because our Sheriff wants to run the jail his way and not according to the law!

The Law Must Also Respect the Law!

I closed out my interview with the Leaf Chronicle with the following statement.

“Inmates do not lose their constitutional rights when they walk through the jail house doors!”

Terry McMoore, Director
Urban Resource Center


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