WAS THE TDOC KEEPING IT A SECRET?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 20, 2017) — The Associated Press (AP) reported on Wednesday that private prison owner/operator CoreCivic has been fined close to $44,000 by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) for conducting head-count procedures incorrectly at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Complex (TTCC).
CoreCivic, formerly known as CCA, is the largest private prison operator in the U.S.
The AP article references a letter it obtained through an open records act request wherein problems with head-counting were noted in January, presumably of this year. However, the AP previously reported in an article posted at The New York Times and later removed that TDOC administrator Tony Howerton made note of the head-count irregularities in a report he issued on March 17, 2016, less than three months after the prison opened its doors.
“Understaffing” was also cited as a concern, in addition to at least one instance of excessive use of force.
The AP’s article from May 2016 continued to be available through other outlets which are now producing an error message.
The Post & Email has a hard copy of the article.
The Tennessean’s article on the subject, published at approximately the same time as AP’s, remains available.
On Wednesday the AP additionally wrote that “counting problems” “were among 66 non-compliance issues found at the facility in a state audit, four of which were deemed critical. A June follow-up found the issues were addressed.”
In scores of letters received over the last 16 months from TTCC inmates and their relatives, The Post & Email has been told that the institution is severely understaffed; that it allows gang members to roam at large and even dictate the day-to-day operation of the facility; that it serves cold food often dispensed by other inmates who are not certified as food-handlers and do not take required sanitary precautions; that medical care is virtually nonexistent and medications often not dispensed; and that hygiene supplies and regular showers are not made available to the inmates.
Among other reported issues are inmate drug abuse which has led to death in at least one instance; frequent 23-hour lockdowns; little to no access to the institution’s law library, and assaults on staff. Recent inmate letters indicate that conditions at the facility have not improved despite the TDOC’s apparent claim made to the the AP.
WSMV, Channel 4 in Nashville, has also reported aggressively on the problems found at TTCC to include an on-air interview with a former CoreCivic chaplain apparently terminated from TTCC because she became a whistleblower.
CoreCivic refuted the claims made in Channel 4’s four-part series aired in June, but the station has stood by its reportage and continues to report deficiencies and dangerous conditions at the prison.
As the Tennessee Open Records Act restricts the release of government documents to Tennessee residents, this publication has been routinely denied access by state agencies. Inquiries made of TDOC spokeswoman Neysa Taylor have resulted in her denial of virtually every claim made about the prison by both inmates and their relatives, which include beatings of inmates by correction officers.
CoreCivic has not responded to our multiple requests for comment.
The institution has had three wardens since opening almost two years ago, the latest of whom is Rusty Washburn.