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by Sharon Rondeau

On Wednesday evening, The Post & Email’s coverage of short-staffing resulting in chaos at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in Trousdale County, TN appears at the top of a Yahoo! search for WSMV, a Nashville television station and online news site which has reported on long waiting times for prison visitors

(May 25, 2016) — An individual who regularly visits the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in Hartsville, TN told The Post & Email on Wednesday that she has waited almost five hours to see her relative on scheduled visitation days.

“We get there about 7:30 and sometimes you get in before noon,” she told us.  “You have to wait until count is over, and at the beginning, they didn’t know how to count.  They take the first 30 who come in the door.  Now, we get there at about 7:00.”

Visitation officially begins at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday and “is supposed to” last until 2:45 p.m. “As soon as count’s over, they make you leave and let the other ones in,” the visitor said.

TTCC is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which considers the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) its “longtime trusted partner.”  TDOC Communications Director Neysa Taylor did not respond to The Post & Email’s request for comment on Wednesday morning in regard to whether or not it has purview over the Hartsville facility given the deficiencies which have been noted.

The facility opened in January and is extremely short-staffed, despite CCA spokesman Jonathan Burns’s statements to the contrary.  Burns declined to respond to The Post & Email’s inquiries last week about conditions and staffing at the prison.

The Post & Email asked the relative, who lives at considerable distance from TTCC, if visitors are dismissed before the conclusion of visitation hours because of a lack of staffing, to which she responded, “They don’t have enough room.  They have a small visitation area, and they have an outside area, but you’d have to have a guard out there.  The one inside is apparently too busy running back and forth opening bathrooms, and there is one who just sits up at the desk and watches everything.  He picks a couple of inmates out and just stares at them.”

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that TTCC stopped accepting new inmates two weeks ago, although the facility is only about two-thirds full.  An internal memo written by the TDOC obtained by the AP “says the guards were not in control of the housing units, were not counting inmates correctly and were putting inmates in solitary confinement for no documented reason.”

In a surprising turn to the interview with the visitor, she told us, “The unit managers and the STG (Security Threat Group) coordinator let the gang members lock down the inmates.”  Further, she said, “If you don’t lock down when they tell you to, you might get a visit in the middle of the night.”

“The gang members get back out.  They can pretty-much do what they want to,” she added.  “Now they’re threatening the inmates that if they don’t comply with everything, they’ll take their ‘good time.’  That’s one of the threats that they’re making now.”

She reported that her relative was badly beaten when he first went to prison “because he wouldn’t join a gang.”  She told us that he is innocent of the crime of which he was convicted.

The Post & Email has reported over more than six years that because of the complete corruption of Tennessee courts and grand juries, it can be reasonably assessed that no defendant in county jail or state prison has received constitutional due process, something the Tennessee media will not report.

Last year, The Post & Email received a number of reports from inmates at another Tennessee prison, NWCX, stating that gang members had free rein at the facility’s Site 1, with one inmate claiming he had been severely beaten by a gang member.

The visitor reported that the food served to the inmates is substandard.  She said that her relative frequently tells her, “I don’t even know what we had” for dinner.  “You can’t tell.  It’s in a styrofoam container, and if there’s bread or a rice cookie, it’s flopped on top.  They do the same thing with the cake.  They come down with the trays, which sit behind the crash gate for about two hours until it’s cold and congealed and not very appetizing,” she told us.

She said that her loved one reported better treatment at other Tennessee prisons as well as employment, which reportedly does not exist at TTCC.

“If you’re a sociopath or psychopath, this is the best job you could have,” she said, speaking of correction staff.  “The women officers, especially, like control.  I would hate to be the husband of one of them, because they love control.  Even the nurses don’t give out the medicines the way they’re supposed to.  There was an inmate who died at pneumonia, and another had a heart attack.  There’s one who has real bad asthma who isn’t getting his inhaler,” the visitor said.

“They have to be mentally-deficient to think that they inmates aren’t going to tell their families,” she said.  “When it hits, when the inmates say, ‘We’ve had enough,’ the repercussions are going to be severe,” she added.

Her closing words were, “It’s not a prison; it’s a concentration camp.”

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