Long-Term Tennessee Inmate Provides Wealth of Information on Prison Reform, Recent TDOC Audit, “Three Strikes” Ruling

“I’M CONFIDENT THAT A CHANGE IS GONNA COME”

by Tracy Finley, TDOC Inmate #94531

Inmate Tracy Finley’s current status in the TDOC “TOMIS” system

(Oct. 23, 2015) — [Editor’s Note:  The following letter was received on October 22, 2015 from 34-year Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) inmate Tracy Finley, continuing the discussion on prison conditions, proposed sentencing and prison reforms, and the death of West Tennessee State Penitentiary inmate Elbert Thornton in 2013.

The Tennessean issued articles on Thornton and a recent audit conducted by the American Correctional Association (ACA) after its representatives visited five Tennessee state prisons last month.  The audit followed multiple reports from correction officers of dangerous conditions and a staffing shortage believed to have resulted from a change in the way overtime pay is calculated initiated in August 2014.

Finley’s first letter, published on Constitution Day (September 17), claimed that the TDOC “has become a warehouse for inmates and an environment that produces even worst [sic] criminals to be released back into society than they were prior to coming into the system.”  At the same time, Finley offered a detailed plan outline for abolishing the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (BOPP), which he said would save the state’s taxpayers millions each year.

By the time Finley is released in an eight years, he will be 61 years old.  He was incarcerated at age 19.  Of the case against him, he reported in a second letter published October 9 that an attorney had told his family that “for the right price, all of this could go away,” then asked for a fee of $50,000.  Finley recalled that the grand jury foreman of the grand jury which indicted him had been serving for 15 consecutive years “with a 100% conviction rate.”

The image containing Finley’s letter can be clicked twice to enlarge it.]

Hard copies of articles included with Finley’s letter translate to the following online links:

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2015/10/07/auditors-set-release-findings-tn-prison-review/73465532/

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2015/09/26/mystery-still-surrounds-death-inmate-no-81738/72687894/

http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/06/report_lays_out_plan_to_shrink.html

http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2015/jun/24/returns-to-lockup-at-28-5-in-state-2015/?latest

http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/politics-government/article26227618.html

The Post & Email was unable to locate online the last hard-copy enclosure titled, “Supreme Court Rules ‘Three Strikes’ Unconstitutional” exactly as published in the unidentified newspaper, but the subject matter related to an 8-1 decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in late June which the majority of justices opined that the “residual clause” in the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 is unconstitutional.

The mainstream media did not report on the aforementioned decision.

Finley’s reference to a “lawsuit on life sentences” involves differing interpretations of a Tennessee law, TCA 40-35-501, titled “Release eligibility status Calculations.”  The Tennessean has provided details on the case here.