- Associated Press - Friday, July 18, 2014

TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (AP) - A south-central Tennessee sheriff has temporarily suspended the use of an inmate work crew by a city because of a disagreement over medical expenses.

Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves told The Tullahoma News (http://bit.ly/1p2cQdk ) that an inmate from had incurred $10,000 in medical expenses while on work detail with Tullahoma Public Works Department, but that city had thus far refused to pay for it.

City of Tullahoma Administrator Jody Baltz expects to get the situation to be resolved soon and plans to continue the work program.

The cities of Tullahoma and Manchester, as well as several county departments and nonprofit organizations, use inmates on work detail as a source of free labor.

According to the department’s “Inmate Work Crew Agreement,” the organization must not only pick up and drop off the inmates at specific times, but also feed them and supervise them closely with no visitors, cellphone use or time alone.

In addition, the organization must agree to be responsible for any escape attempts as well as medical bills for any injury that occurs while the inmate is under their care and custody.

Graves said the inmate in question was resting on break and leaning against a tombstone when it fell on his foot.

“He’s on medical furlough right now,” Graves said. “We’ve suspended inmates from that particular work detail until we can get the situation resolved.”

Baltz said that the person who had originally signed the sheriff’s work crew agreement in previous years was not actually authorized to do so.

“The problem is that the agreement was never signed by me, nor was it ever approved by the board of mayor and alderman,” Baltz said, “so it really wasn’t legally binding.”

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Information from: The Tullahoma News, http://www.tullahomanews.com

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