Giles County concerned citizens respond to jail statistics story



Giles County concerned citizens say some of the jail statistics the Giles County Sheriff’s Department released to News 2 Friday are misleading and need context to be properly understood.  
According to Sheriff Kyle Helton, approximately 23% of all inmates in the Giles County Jail are black, while more than 75% of Giles County inmates are white. 
Aljanise Ewing Jones and Kelly Fisk Hamlin, concerned citizens in Giles County, indicate that white people make up most of the population of Giles County and the arrest records by race don’t give a full understanding of arrests in the county.  
On Friday, Sheriff Helton told News 2, he had been approached by a concerned citizen who identified herself as a member of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. 
The sheriff tells News 2 that the meeting with the community member lasted two hours and consisted of many issues that included incarceration and the racial breakdown of offenders.  
In an effort to be transparent, Sheriff Helton reported his jail’s arrest records dating back to 2017. 
The numbers overwhelmingly show that white males are incarcerated at a higher percentage than Black males in Giles County. 
In addition to the numerical breakdown, the sheriff said his officers do not target offenders based on race and his sheriff’s department is about law and order regardless of race, creed, or color. 
In a letter to the sheriff’s department, obtained by News 2, Kelly Hamlin, an officer with the Giles County NAACP made several points contesting the sheriff department’s release and subsequent reporting by News 2. 
“We were quite surprised to see the WKRN headline “Giles County Sheriff shows jail records after informal NAACP inquiry” released on Friday in reference to our meeting on Wednesday the 8th. The report contains several incorrect details.  
We did not come to you as representatives of the NAACP, but rather at your request through association with the Unity Committee planning the Unity Festival – made explicitly clear through the email below. This error is not to be taken lightly, as the Giles Branch NAACP did not authorize their name or logo being used in association with our conversation. Any reference to the NAACP came from Kelly Hamlin’s mention of her position as Branch Secretary and her invitation for you to email her any job openings so that she could share them with the branch.  
Our meeting was at the suggestion of Captain Purvis, as referenced in the email contained below. 
Our meeting was intended to discuss opportunities for your office to engage in a positive way with the community, and we came to you with specific suggestions related to that topic. One of those suggestions was, indeed, that you make the habit of sharing statistics about your interactions with citizens – thank you for doing so in such a prompt way through WKRN. We did not approach you to quiz you about your interactions with black citizens, as portrayed on WKRN. The interview and report perpetuate a narrative that Giles County doesn’t have any problems with race and that any concerns are unfounded. 
The statistics shared are lacking the very important element of context. In 2018, black citizens constituted 10% of the county’s population according to the American Community Survey. Your own statistics show that Black males account for 23% of incarcerations from 2017-2019 – a disproportionate percentage given their representation in our general population. Andy Cordan also references that white men have been arrested a little more than twice as much as black men so far in 2020. This is very problematic given that the white population is almost 9 times larger than the black population in our county. These important details paint a much fuller picture of your interaction with Giles County citizens than what was portrayed in your interview with WKRN.” 
The letter is signed by Aljanise Ewing Jones and Kelly Fisk Hamlin.  
As indicated, the concerned citizens group initially contacted the sheriff’s department about a unity event that was scheduled to be held in the county later in the month.  
The event titled: Where Is the Love Show, Show Us the Love! 
At the time, organizers wrote this to the sheriff’s department: 
“We are excited to have you be a part of such a great event. Our goal is that this event will open the hearts and minds to those in attendance to the racial inequalities that continue to persist in our community and the world. We believe the event will bring awareness to the issues but “love” will ultimately bring about a positive change.” 
Sheriff Helton expressed sincere interest to participate telling News 2 Monday, “I thought we had a good meeting. I’d invite them to come back and talk about other issues.” 
As far as his initial belief that the citizens who approached him represented the local chapter of the NAACP, Helton writes this. 
“I regret any misunderstanding or miscommunication that may have resulted from this interview. They are welcome at my office any time, and I’d like to continue to work with them to improve the community for all its members.” 

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