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by Sharon Rondeau
(May 23, 2016) — Following two articles published last week prompted by letters received from an inmate recently relocated to a privately-operated prison in Hartsville, TN, The Post & Email has communicated with three individuals with firsthand knowledge of the conditions within the prison, which is by all accounts severely understaffed, leaving correction officers and inmates alike at risk.
The eyewitnesses have each visited TTCC, the new Hartsville facility which opened in January of this year owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private company which operates four prisons throughout the state and dozens across the country, primarily in the South, Southwest and Mountain West.
The eyewitness accounts contrast sharply with the positive image projected by CCA on the home page of its website. On its “Inmate Management” page, CCA states, “Effectively managing inmates is a blend between policy, procedure and best practices combined with interpersonal and human relations skills. At CCA, we take care to ensure offenders receive respectful and humane treatment while keeping our steady focus on the security of staff, inmates and the communities where we operate.”
The Hartsville institution is designated as medium-security but has taken in scores of minimum-security inmates, who have been forced to comply with the more restrictive environment.
The inmate’s letters indicated that because of a lack of staff, they are kept in their cells virtually all of the time, whereas in the facilities from which they came, they were permitted time to exercise, socialize and to visit the prison law library.
Last week, The Post & Email received no response to a list of questions submitted to CCA media representative Jonathan Burns as a result of the inmate’s concerns expressed in his half-dozen letters received this month.
Since the publication of the first two articles, The Post & Email’s Tennessee readership has increased dramatically.
The eyewitnesses have told The Post & Email that their incarcerated loved ones do not receive treatment for serious medical issues, including daily medication doses.
One eyewitness told us in a comment left in response to the second article:
I recently was on the local news specking out about CCA my husband was housed at Trousdale Turner Center in Hartville TN. They retaliated against me by moving my husband to another CCA in Whitesville TN. I am on a mission to expose this corrupt Corporation. They keep inmates locked down 90% of the time, they are not getting showers and clean cloths for week at a time. Inmates are not receiving medical care. All 4 CCA are understaff. The state is contacted for on private prison and there is 4. The tax payers are paying for guards to come from out of state and work 16 plus hours a shift, we are paying for their hotels and rental cars. Some how this has to stop. I have wrote state house representatives on the criminal justice board. My husband is in poor health and I will fight this cause til the bitter end. Thank you for your time in this matter.
After speaking with the commenter on Sunday evening, she expanded upon her story by stating that after TTCC staff discovered that she had approached WSMV, Channel 4, to complain about inordinately long wait times to see her husband, CCA staff unexpectedly awakened her husband at 2:00 a.m. shortly thereafter, placed him in shackles, and said, “Tell your wife to go to take this to the media,” then relocated him to the state prison in Whiteville.
“I know it was done out of retaliation,” she told us.
The Post & Email has also been told that during visits, neither the inmate nor the family member is permitted to use a lavatory under threat of having the visit terminated.
We were told that the food served to the inmates is substandard, cold, and so unappetizing that it is “unfit for a person on the street” to consume.
On Sunday, a relative of an inmate attempted to visit, but after waiting for nearly two hours, was told that the facility had been placed on “lockdown” and that all visitors must leave. “They had already been on lockdown earlier,” she said.
Because of an obvious staffing shortage, Tennessee taxpayers are funding travel and hotel accommodations for out-of-state corrections officers to work at TTCC, according to two inmates’ relatives who have visited the facility. “Nobody wants to work there; it’s too dangerous,” we were told.
The visitors who spoke with The Post & Email on Sunday both stated that they believe their incarcerated relatives are pawns in a scheme to generate money for the corporate stockholders. One observer described her relative’s circumstances as no better than modern-day slavery, despite abolition of the practice by ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865 following the American Civil War.
The Post & Email will expand on this report over the coming days.