A Furlough From Jail?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

I remember the first time as an attorney I heard an individual in the jail ask me whether I could obtain a furlough for them, and I thought, “Is this person crazy? A furlough from jail? Surely this is not a real thing.”

It is a real thing.

There are a few Tennessee laws that discuss furloughs for inmates, but lets start very simple.

A furlough is defined as, “a leave of absence.” Meaning an inmate who is in jail can be granted a leave of absence to leave jail for a period of time and then return to jail and continue serving their sentence.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 41-2-143 discusses furloughs and states when furloughs should be considered, but the general rule is that all furloughs shall be made on an individual basis under reasonable conditions to inmate and are generally only given in the event of serious illness or death of a member of the inmate’s immediate family.

How long does a furlough last and who is eligible for them?

A furlough will generally only be for a maximum of three days and shall be granted only to those with a record of behavior and conduct as to be worthy of the privilege.

In my experience, furloughs are almost never granted. For law enforcement purposes, it is just not worth it. To have to process someone out of the jail for a short period of time, keep tabs on when that person is supposed to return, and then process them back in to jail, is simply too much of a hassle and runs too much of a risk of the person not returning.

So could an inmate obtain a furlough?

Theoretically, yes, but they are very rare. I think I have obtained one or two ever. If you are seeking one for yourself or someone else, the safe assumption is that the request will be denied.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.