Next month, in the quiet Morgan County city of Wartburg, the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, along with the Tennessee Department of Correction, will open what the state says is the nation’s first statewide residential Recovery Court, reports the News Sentinel. The 24-hour, 100-bed facility, which opens its doors Aug. 1, will allow the state to divert people with substance abuse or mental health issues from prison beds, with the hope of halting the cycle of hospitalization, incarceration and homelessness that plagues many.
In a November budget hearing meeting with Gov. Bill Haslam, Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney laid out such a plan as being a humane and cost-effective way to deal with what he sees as one of the state’s biggest problems. In 2011, he told Haslam, for the first time ever, the state saw more people seeking treatment for narcotics addiction than for alcoholism — and the state’s system was sorely taxed.
“A large number of people in jails … their core problem is really drug abuse,” he said. Such an intensive program could “change their (lives) before they ever get that far.”
TDOC estimates the average daily cost to house a prison inmate at just more than $67. The Recovery Court residential program, even being more service-intensive than existing programs, will cost an average of $35 per person per day, the state said. But it also will, in theory, save money by reducing recidivism — “repeat offenders” — by using “evidence-based” programs “proven to have a larger impact on reducing recidivism.”
The state said studies have shown the recidivism rate for people who participate in such programs is one-third that of those who don’t.
However, it should not been taken as the state going “soft on crime,” TDOC Commissioner Derek Schofield said.
“What it says is that we’re going to place people in the best option to ensure they don’t re-offend. But also, we’re going to make sure we have a prison bed available for people who commit violent offenses that harm our communities,” he said.
Sen. Stacey Campfield is drawing national media attention again, this time for a blog post joke calling for “pressure cooker control” after pressure cookers were fashioned into bombs for the Boston marathon explosions that killed three people.
The unapologetic Campfield had an interview/argument with CNN’s Piers Morgan on Thursday, saying he was “just pointing out the hypocrisy of the left” and comparing gun control as a curb to violence to “spoon control” to curb obesity.
He also got in a few digs at Morgan, such as: “When are you going to move back to England? People in Tennessee are dying to know.” (Video HERE)
And here’s an excerpt from an ABC News story, which notes the blog post had a photo of a pressure cooker with “Assault Pressure Cooker (APC)” printed below it.: The photo had labels and arrows pointing to all of the pot’s “dangerous” features including a “muzzle break thingy that goes ‘up'” and a “tactical pistol grip.”
It’s also described as “large-capacity, can cook for hours without reloading” and the color was “evil, black.”
The blog post was titled, “Here comes Feinstein again,” an apparent dig at Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of the leading proponents in the battle for gun control. The image implied that pressure cookers might be her next target.
Two pressure cookers were turned into bombs in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260 people.
Campfield dismisses the criticism.
“I think it’s tasteless when Obama will drag everybody he can up to Capitol Hill and try to pass gun control,” Campfield told ABCNews.com today. “I think that was classless and tasteless. I don’t hear them complaining about that too much.”
“I was showing the hypocrisy of Diane Feinstein, the gun grabbers, of their inability to realize that it is a person that does activity, not an inanimate object, be it a gun or a pressure cooker,” he said.
The University of Tennessee received state approval Friday to move forward with its plan to drill oil and gas wells for hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — on university land in Morgan and Scott counties, reports The News Sentinel. The four-member executive subcommittee of the State Building Commission voted unanimously after three hours of testimony from UT officials, environmental activists and industry personnel.
The move cleared the way for documents, called a request for proposals, or RFP, that allow UT to begin soliciting bids from oil and gas companies interested in leasing land in the more than 8,000 acres UT owns in its Cumberland Research Forest.
UT intends to use revenue from the natural gas and oil produced to then conduct research on the environmental impacts and best management practices of fracking.
Any contract UT enters into with a company would have to come back before the State Building Commission for approval.
That step is likely several months away, said Larry Arrington, chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture.
The subcommittee heard from two dozen members of the public, most of whom were activists concerned about environmental impacts and transparency.
Because research funding would be tied to the productivity of the well and its revenues, the research could not be considered objective, Gwen Parker, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, told the committee.
“I felt the conflict of interest point was not fully understood,” she said after the meeting. “So I think our next step would be to follow up and make sure it’s communicated better.”
State Comptroller Justin Wilson asked questions throughout the testimony about both the potential for research bias and accusations that UT had tailored the RFP to a specific company. He ultimately voted in favor of the proposal.
News release from TBI:
Knoxville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today arrested a former employee of the Morgan County Soil Conservation District for theft after she was indicted by the Morgan County Grand Jury on Monday, May 21, 2012.
Sharlene Justice, 49, was charged with one count of theft over $10,000 for taking funds from the Morgan County Soil Conservation District while working as the district’s secretary. TBI opened the investigation at the request of the 10th Judicial District Attorney General in December of 2011 after an audit revealed discrepancies regarding payments, checks and bank statements related to Justice’s employment. The state comptroller’s office of Division of County Audit conducted an audit and discovered more than $44,000 missing as part of the investigation.
Justice was booked into the Morgan County Jail on $6,000 bond.
The Tennessee Board of Regents is questioning the logic of legislation that prevents public colleges from enforcing nondiscrimination rules on religious student groups, according to WPLN. The bill (SB3597) responds to an ongoing dispute at Vanderbilt University, even though private institutions are excluded. The legislation would prevent administrators from requiring student groups to drop faith requirements for membership or leadership positions, as Vanderbilt has done.
TBR Chancellor John Morgan says he doesn’t know exactly how the proposed law would affect MTSU, Austin Peay or Tennessee Tech, but he doesn’t see a need.
“Far as I know, that has not been an issue at any of the public institutions in Tennessee, yet we’re going to pass a law that only applies to public institutions? It’s hard for me to understand that.”
A summary of the bill – which was scheduled for a Senate vote Monday night (but was postponed until next week) – says religious student organizations would be allowed to choose leaders who are committed to their mission and that no higher education institution could deny recognition of a group because of the religious content of their speech.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper fired for driving past a fatal wreck lost his first bid to save his job Tuesday, reports Matt Lakin. Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons turned down Trooper Charles Van Morgan’s appeal, calling Morgan’s behavior “a poor representation” of the agency.
“We have a responsibility to serve the state of Tennessee with professionalism, honesty and integrity, and we will not tolerate the actions of those who fail to do so,” Gibbons said.
Morgan had worked for nine years for the state Department of Safety and drew an annual salary of $49,344. He lost his job after internal investigators determined he slowed down but didn’t stop when he drove by the Nov. 26 wreck on Andersonville Pike in North Knox County that killed Gordon Kyle Anito, 20.
Morgan had been chasing Anito after clocking him driving nearly 80 mph in a 40 mph zone on Emory Road just before 3:30 a.m. Tests for drugs and alcohol on Anito aren’t complete.
Video from Morgan’s cruiser showed he slowed to nearly 20 mph as he passed Anito’s 2005 Subaru Impreza, which had run off the road and hit a tree head-on. He told dispatchers he’d lost the car, drove another half-mile down the road and sat parked for nearly five minutes before he returned to a car in flames.
News release from attorney general’s office:
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper and 24 other state attorneys general announced a $92 million agreement with JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPMC) as part of an ongoing nationwide investigation of alleged anticompetitive and fraudulent conduct in the municipal bond derivatives industry.
As part of the multistate agreement, JPMC has agreed to pay $65.5 million in restitution to affected state agencies, municipalities, school districts and not-for-profit entities nationwide that entered into municipal derivative contracts with JPMC between 2001 and 2005. In addition, JPMC agreed to pay a $3.5 million civil penalty and $6 million in fees and costs of the investigation to the participating states. It has not yet been determined how much Tennessee and the other states will receive from the agreement.
By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A search will begin early next year for a permanent president for Tennessee State University, state Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said Friday.
Morgan spoke to reporters following the board’s quarterly meeting at Nashville State Community College.
About 20 protesters opposed to academic changes to the university rallied outside the community college, with some holding signs reading “Save TSU,” and “Start Search for Permanent President of TSU Now.” Some protesters were also outside the college the day before, according to The Tennessean.
Tennessee State Interim President Portia Holmes Shields has been reorganizing academic departments and eliminating some degree programs that have only a few graduates in an effort to turn around the struggling historically black university.
Morgan said Shields is doing a good job and was brought in to put the university in a position to do a national search.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Board of Regents has approved tuition hikes of between 8 and 11 percent, with the actual increase for each student depending on how many credit hours that student is taking.
The Board also approved a 3 percent cost of living increase for employees at its six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers.
Board Chancellor John Morgan said at the Friday meeting that he doesn’t expect tuition hikes to be as much next year, and tuition will probably level off in subsequent years if state revenues continue to increase.
On Thursday, University of Tennessee system trustees approved a 12 percent hike in tuition at the flagship campus in Knoxville and 10 percent increases at the Martin and Chattanooga campuses.