Under the common law the sheriff had the right to appoint a jailer. Felts v. City of Memphis, 39 Tenn. 650 (1859). The right of the sheriff to appoint a jailer has been codified in T.C.A. § 41-4-101, wherein it states that the sheriff is authorized to appoint a jailer for whose acts the sheriff is civilly responsible.
Under Tennessee law, "[t]he sheriff of the county ... may appoint a jailer, for whose acts the sheriff is civilly responsible." Tenn.Code Ann. § 41-4-101 (1997). Jailers are charged with the following responsibilities: to receive and safely keep convicts on their way to the state or federal penitentiary, to file and keep safe under the sheriff's direction the mittimus or process by which a prisoner is committed or discharged from jail, to determine within their discretion what type of precautions to take for guarding against escape and to prevent the importation of drugs, to provide support, to furnish adequate food and bedding, to enforce cleanliness in the jails, to convey letters from prisoners to their counsel and others, and to admit persons having business with the prisoner.
Sowards v. Loudon County, 203 F.3d 426, 436 (6th Cir. 2000). See also United States v. Hill, 60 F. 1005, 1009 (6th Cir. 1894) (... the Tennessee statute makes the sheriff civilly responsible for the acts of the jailer whom he appoints.). See also Davis v. Hardin County, 2002 WL 1397276, *3 - *4 (W.D. Tenn. 2002), for a discussion of the differences between deputies and jailers for the purposes of the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act.