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Lawrence sheriff-elect outlines priorities

By Kristen Bishop 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County Sheriff-elect Gene Mitchell said his first priority when taking office Jan. 15 will be to stop the flow of drugs into Lawrence County Jail.

"We've got to get security operations going within the jail," he said. "I won't go into specifics, but it'll be different from what we have now."

Mitchell said he knows drugs are being smuggled inside because of the high rate of drug tests inmates failed.

Prisoners are required to pass a drug test before joining certain county programs like community corrections, an alternative to incarceration.

"If they're already in for drugs, and their drug level is higher six weeks later when they take the test, we know they're getting them in jail," said Mitchell. "... There have been times when not one of the 30 or so prisoners taking the test has passed."

Departmental changes

The incoming sheriff is also making changes to the department's staff before taking office.

Mitchell has hired Town Creek Police Chief Harold Knighten to head the patrol division.

Knighten will be in charge of 18 deputies, including two school resource officers and the two courthouse security officers.

It's not the first time he has worked at the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, said Knighten. He started working there as a dispatcher the day after he graduated high school more than 20 years ago. He also was a jailer for the Sheriff's Department before moving to the Town Creek Police Department in the early '90s.

Mitchell has hired Don Carr to operate the drug-dog vehicle. Carr has several years of drug-dog experience in Hartselle and Decatur, said Mitchell.

He hired Samantha Smith to handle administrative duties in the department's office.

Mitchell has yet to appoint a chief deputy. Former Chief Deputy Wayne Huguley retired Dec. 29.

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