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While the sheriff is, of right, entitled to the custody of the jail for the safekeeping of prisoners awaiting trial, transfer, or execution, etc., this will not prevent the county court from declaring the jail a county workhouse for the confinement of prisoners who are under sentence therein, provided the jail is of sufficient capacity to accommodate both classes of prisoners, or may be made so by additions thereto. While the jail is so jointly occupied, workhouse prisoners will be under the control of the superintendent, who will provide for them as required in this act, but all other prisoners will be committed to the care and custody of the sheriff. State v. Cummins, 42 S.W. 880 (Tenn. 1897).

Workhouses Authorized

The Counties, through their county legislative bodies, are authorized and empowered to establish, construct and maintain portable, movable or stationary workhouses, as the legislative bodies may, in their discretion and wisdom, deem advisable for the best interest of the county. Prisoners receiving workhouse sentences by the circuit or criminal court of the county shall be sentenced to the workhouse as may be provided by the county legislative body. T.C.A. § 41-2-101(a).

The county legislative body may provide lands, buildings and articles of any kind as may be necessary for a workhouse for the county. T.C.A. § 41-2-101(b).

Pursuant to T.C.A. §§ 41-2-101(a), 41-2-101(c), and 41-2-103, counties have the authority  to establish, construct and maintain portable or moving workhouses for the convenience of working prisoners upon the public highways and in working out their sentences in any labor assigned them. T.C.A. § 41-2-101(c).

Jail as Workhouse

In any county not having provided a separate workhouse, the county legislative body may declare its jail to be a workhouse if, in the opinion of the members of the county legislative body, the jail is of sufficient capacity and suitable for the purpose. From and after such declaration the jail shall be known as, and shall be, the county workhouse, and the county shall have thereafter the benefit of all laws in the state applying to workhouses. T.C.A. § 41-2-102. Whenever the jail has been declared a workhouse, the sheriff shall be ex officio the superintendent of the workhouse.  T.C.A. § 41-2-108.