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Monday, May 30, 2016

Top stories of 2012: Crowded jail; a boy's brave decision

Friday, December 28, 2012

Alex Rodriguez, right, chats with County Mayor Eugene Ray moments before leaving by limousine with his family for a trip to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.
(T-G File Photo by Sadie Fowler) [Order this photo]
Overcrowding at Bedford County Jail, and a 12-year-old's decision to stop cancer treatments, are the next two items in the Times-Gazette's annual countdown of the year's top stories as chosen by a vote of various T-G staffers.

First, a reminder of the stories revealed so far:

10) Cascade Band wins state championship (20 points, 1 first-place vote)

9) Presidential election (22 points)

6 - tie) Principal shuffle (24 points)

6 - tie) Skull found in river (24 points)

6 - tie) Inappropriate contact alleged (24 points)

Now, the countdown continues:

5) Jail overcrowding

(27 points)

The state told Bedford County in October that its jail was overcrowded. The county commission voted last month to join Tennessee Corrections Institute's County Corrections Partnership Initiative, which will provide consultation and referral as the county struggles to deal with jail overcrowding.

State jail inspector Miller Meadows addressed the commission, telling them that the county jail is significantly overcrowded -- but it isn't alone; Meadows said 57 jails statewide are overcrowded, and so is the state prison system. State officials say they aren't telling the county what to do, but presentations at both the November and December county commission meetings hinted that the current jail, built in the mid 1980s, may be at the end of its useful life.

Building a new jail, if that's ultimately required, could prove a financial challenge for the county; recent discussions of capital projects have indicated that the county doesn't have any additional borrowing capacity without raising new income. Some old debts will be paid off within the next few years, however.

Then there's the question of whether to build a stand-alone jail or a jail combined with courtroom space -- a so-called "justice center." Some other counties have turned to justice center as a way to avoid the expenses and security risks involved with transporting prisoners to and from court proceedings.

In addition, there has been discussion for years of security problems at the county courthouse. But downtown Shelbyville merchants have made it clear they would oppose any proposal that would take judicial functions away from the square.

4) Alex stops

cancer treatments

(29 points)

Local 12-year-old cancer patient Alex Rodriguez drew worldwide attention for his decision to stop cancer treatments, which was covered by U.S. television networks and even a British newspaper. Alex got a February dream trip to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta and also traveled to Gatlinburg before losing his fight in May, just a month shy of his 13th birthday.

Alex suffered from rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in the soft tissue of his muscles, the connective tissue of the tendons and cartilage, throughout his body. A relatively rare form of cancer -- especially in children -- he endured chemotherapy and radiation, even surgery on his spine.

The cancer waned at one point, but returned. In 2010, Alex's oncologist gave him three years to live.

"Alex touched so many lives, not just in Shelbyville or Tennessee, but around the world," said Jeffrey McGee of Edgemont Baptist Church at the time of Alex's passing.

"He touched my life. I was so blessed and honored to be around Alex and his grandmother during his last days. He will be missed but he gave us a great example of a young hero with lots of courage," said McGee.

--Original reporting by Tracy Simmons contributed to this story.

SUNDAY: The year's top three stories.