QUESTIONS ABOUT INMATE CLASSIFICATIONS, STAFFING, POLICIES REMAIN UNANSWERED
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 20, 2016) — On Tuesday, The Post & Email shared excerpts of letters received from a Tennessee prison inmate describing his new surroundings in a privately-run, as opposed to state-run, prison.
Correction Corporation of America (CCA) operates the newly-opened prison at Hartsville, TN where the inmate was transferred last month, along with scores of others.
The expected opening of the site was announced by CCA President and CEO Damon Hininger on July 7, 2014 in a statement which reads, in part:
I’m proud to say our CCA family is growing! And as we look towards growth and meeting the needs of our government partners, I’m very excited to announce that CCA is officially constructing our newest correctional facility, located in Hartsville, Tennessee in Trousdale County. The area is just about one hour northeast of Nashville, where the Facility Support Center is headquartered. We will own and operate the $140 million, 2,552 medium-security bed prison for male inmates on behalf of long-time trusted partner, the Tennessee Department of Correction.
CCA is based in Nashville and operates prisons in various states across the country.
The inmate arrived at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in late April and immediately began documenting his observations in a series of letters which The Post & Email began receiving on May 3.
Initially, the inmate noted that “The prison is new it’s clean and the mattresses & pillows are much better.” However, he documented a number of issues about which he contacted the warden.
Among his concerns were the loss of his previous employment; the potential for losing “program credits” which are applied toward reducing the time an inmate must serve; a lack of privacy during showers and other times; severe under-staffing; and being housed with medium- and higher-security prisoners when his classification is “minimum security.”
Early on Tuesday, The Post & Email contacted TTCC Warden Blair J. Leibach’s office and reached the voice mail of his secretary, Jil Phlipot, with whom we left a message. We also left a voice message and email for CCA spokesman Jonathan Burns.
After publication of our article early on Tuesday afternoon and while we were out of the office, Phlipot and Burns sent respective email responses, with Philipot deferring to Burns.
Thank you for your interested in the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility. Our policy is to refer all public inquires to CCA’s public affairs office. Our contact is Jonathan.Burns@cca.com.
CCA – Trousdale Turner Correctional Center
Hartsville, TN 37074
The email we received from Burns that afternoon reads:
Thanks for reaching out Sharon. Are you working on deadline for this story? We’re happy to answer specific questions you might have – please include those in your response and we’ll work to get responsive information back to you.
Director, Public Affairs
The Post & Email responded on Tuesday evening by thanking Burns for his reply and submitting a list of questions, which were:
1. Will the minimum-security inmates recently brought to TTCC lose their designation and accompanying privileges since they are now housed with medium-security inmates?
2. Will those who had employment at their previous prisons be re-employed at TTCC?
3. The inmate who wrote to me is concerned about losing “program credits” earned at previous facilities.
4. Are you receiving a large number of applications for the job openings posted for Hartsville which I referenced in the article?
5. Is CCA willing to look into the situation with the showers and privacy which the inmate mentioned?
6. Is there a facility or company handbook with the prison rules, including grievance procedures, etc.?
We received no response on Wednesday or Thursday, and on Thursday evening sent Burns the following email:
Hello, Jonathan, did you receive my list of questions sent late on Tuesday? If not, I’ll be happy to resend.
I would like to publish an update to the initial article on TTCC by noon tomorrow if possible and would very much like to include your responses.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
to which we have received no response as of press time, which is 1:10 p.m. EDT. Located in Nashville, Burns would be in the Central time zone, which is one hour earlier.
It therefore appears to The Post & Email that while obtaining responses from Tennessee State prison officials is difficult and at times impossible, the same can be said for CCA, a private corporation.
The Post & Email asks why Burns reportedly provided a statement to WSMV, Channel 4, Nashville, on the topic of long visitor wait times at TTCC but has not afforded us the same professional courtesy, particularly when we gave notice of our deadline.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.