INMATE’S MEDICATIONS WITHHELD BY PRIVATE PRISON FOR MORE THAN TWO WEEKS
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 13, 2017) — On April 27, 2017, Tennessee inmate Grenda Harmer was placed in segregation, or solitary confinement, at the South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) on a “pending investigation” (PI) status.
One of the reasons alleged for PI status was “possible attempt to intimidate,” which Harmer said is not a valid offense according to Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) policies.
Although SCCF is a privately-owned and operated facility, it is required to follow the TDOC’s written policies and procedures. The Post & Email has been told that the TDOC provides regular oversight to the state’s privately-owned prisons, and the state’s newest prison, TTCC, was compelled to stop admitting inmates last year due to staffing shortages and other irregularities identified by TDOC administrator Tony Howerton.
Harmer was housed at TTCC, another CoreCivic prison, from July 2016 through April 5.
In response to our request for comment last summer on reported prison conditions in both government-run and privately-operated prisons, TDOC Communications Director Neysa Taylor denied the accounts we related as “inaccurate” but encouraged family members to contact her with any concerns. “We’re very open,” she told us.
However, inmates’ relatives have told The Post & Email that they fear for retaliation against their loved ones if they were to do so.
Tennessee’s four private prisons are owned by CoreCivic, the country’s largest detention corporation. CoreCivic executives and TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker have been completely unresponsive to our requests for comment on the myriad reports we have received stating that medical care and treatment of prisoners are far below the state’s professed standards. Such reports include alleged physical assault of inmates by correction officers, denial of prescription medications or irregular administration, and frequent 23-hour lockdowns.
Uncontrolled gang activity has been extensively reported by TTCC inmates and their relatives, including some relatives who have visited at scheduled visitation times.
Since being placed in solitary confinement, Harmer has reported no running hot water, black mold in the shower area, and no surface for meals or for storing one’s clothing. His other personal possessions were confiscated before he was placed in segregation on April 27.
At the time, Harmer was told he would be confined to segregation for a week, but his most recent letter, dated May 6 and received on Friday, indicated that he remains there facing additional disciplinary measures which he claimed are unwarranted. “The reason SCCC prison officials (CoreCivic employees and one TDOC employee) snatched me out of population so quick is they didn’t want a repeat of what happened at the Trousdale prison,” he wrote. “They didn’t want me getting settled in. And they seen I was quickly becoming settled in. So they trumped up a false PI report. To be honest it’s not me they’re afraid of…”
He later added, “I’m still in segregation even though my PI is over with, which proves my point…”
On page 3, he revealed that “The institutional investigator never came to see me at any time. They didn’t have anything on me. The whole PI thing was a sham to get me up out of the general population.”
Harmer has appealed his continuing segregation to Parker, copied to CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger.
“Now I’m being held for D-Board on another trumped up charge for destruction of state property. I told them I’d never plead guilty to something I wasn’t guilty of. As of writing you today I’ve still not received any medications,” he wrote.
As part of its due diligence, The Post & Email located the TDOC Offender Handbook online. On page 9, the charge of “attempt to intimidate employee” appears as a “Class B” infraction, but “possible attempt to intimidate” is not found anywhere in the document.
On page 7 of the policy section titled “Uniform Disciplinary Procedures,” circumstances for placing an inmate in segregation are listed, none of which includes “possible attempt to intimidate.”
Another alleged infraction against Harmer was a “Personal Property Violation” alleging that Harmer had “1 pair of Vibrum boots not on said I/M’s property list.”
However, the boots were on his property list, and the disciplinary report was dismissed.
When he arrived on at SCCF on April 5 from TTCC, his eyeglasses and a foam wedge recommended by a physician following surgery were taken and not returned. At the time, Harmer related to The Post & Email that his medications would soon run out and that he was told he would not be able to see a doctor for two weeks.
An April 29 letter written by The Post & Email to SCCF Warden Cherry Lindamood about the confiscation of the two medical devices received no response.
Medically, Harmer, 64, suffers from acid reflux disease, degenerative joint disease, and another malady affecting daily bodily functioning. The latter is arguably the most serious of the three conditions. In a letter dated May 6 received on Friday, he said his medications had not been restored and his grievances filed on the matter ignored.
The TDOC’s policy on inmate grievances accessed from its website indicates that it became effective October 1, 2012 and expired on October 1, 2015, with no update apparently available. The section states that “The TDOC shall ensure that every inmate has the right to utilize the grievance procedure without fear of reprisal. All grievances shall be considered in a fair and impartial manner and resolved at the lowest possible level in the grievance procedure.”
Harmer has reported requesting grievance forms without receiving a response from prison staff, although the stated policy on that issue reads (page 2) that “Inmates shall have unimpeded access to these grievance forms.”
On page 4 of the policy section, it is stated that “The good faith use of, or good faith participation in, the grievance process will not result in formal or informal reprisals against an inmate.”
CoreCivic employs Correct Care Solutions (CCS) to provide medical care within its facilities. On Tuesday, The Post & Email contacted CCS through its website portal for media inquiries. Later that day, we received a response from spokesman Jim Cheney stating that he would look into our question regarding why CCS was not administering Harmer’s medications.
Cheney is the same spokesman The Post & Email contacted, along with Taylor, after Harmer’s medications were discontinued at TTCC in late February. Having made contact on March 16, Harmer’s medications were restored on March 17.
A nine-page section of the TDOC Administrative Policies and Procedures dealing with inmate medical care provides extensive and detailed guidance as to the 24-hour access inmates are to have in Tennessee prisons.
At the bottom of page 4, specific instructions are put forth for inmates in segregation:
On page 5 of the manual, it states, “Inmates housed in segregation, detention, or holding units shall receive their daily-prescribed medications.”
The policies contained in the manual expire on February 1, 2018.
Following our receipt of Harmer’s letter on Friday indicating that, as of May 6, he remained without medications, we recontacted Cheney. No response was received as of the close of business on Friday.