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“HE WAS TRULY AFRAID FOR HIS LIFE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 14, 2016) — Since May 17, The Post & Email has made public a number of reports received from relatives of inmates at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in Hartsville, TN, a new facility plagued with problems since it opened its doors in January because of severe understaffing and insufficient training of existing and former staff.
Both long-distance relatives and those able to visit regularly have related accounts from relatives incarcerated in the facility, which is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), ranging from food labeled “unfit for human consumption” to gang members performing nightly lockdown to minimum-security prisoners forced to spend 23 hours daily in solitary confinement.
Inadequate or virtually non-existent medical care has also been reported.
CCA runs four prisons in Tennessee, while the state Department of Correction (TDOC) operates the remaining ten, although the TDOC is considered a “long-time trusted partner” to CCA in its Tennessee operations.
As of this writing, TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield’s biography curiously does not reflect his resignation effective on June 20 and his announced replacement with TDOC Correctional Administrator Tony Parker.
Tennessee mainstream media has reported excessive use of force, an assault on a correction officer, and a Hepatitis-C outbreak quickly turned epidemic about which the state’s correctional system has been slow to take action. On May 24, the Associated Press reported that a report completed by TDOC Correctional Administrator Tony Howerton revealed that multiple problems apparently led to TTCC’s cessation of accepting new prisoners last month, although the article has mysteriously disappeared from the AP’s websites.
On Tuesday evening, The Post & Email received an email from the girlfriend of an inmate located at considerable distance from TTCC who has been frantically attempting to discover whether or not her boyfriend is in protective custody, has been harmed, or is reasonably safe in the short-staffed institution. In a previous interview on May 28, the girlfriend had stated that incoming and outgoing mail to the facility appeared to have stalled or ceased and that her boyfriend had predicted that “Something’s going to happen” as a result of the stressful conditions for both staff and prisoners.
“PC” stands for “protective custody,” in which an inmate is placed if he believes his life is in danger and if staff approves it.
Last Thursday, the girlfriend informed us:
My boyfriend is still at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center and things definitely are getting worse every day. Today he called and told me that there was a problem like at NWCX. He was reluctant to give me details but he finally told me that the gang bangers do security in the showers and he did something or didn’t do something, I’m not exactly sure, but they then told him that he had to pay them $50 and if he didn’t by 2pm they would be paying him a visit to smash him up (something like that, I don’t remember the exact way he put it). He was really not wanting to go to PC but I begged him to tell someone. He was kicked off the phone a few minutes into the call so I got very limited details but also he has been denied emergency sick call 2 times in the past couple days. Idk what is wrong with him but he has been talking about stomach pain and thinking he may have ulcers in his letters the past month or so. I called TTCC and explained what was going on and that he needed to be moved ASAP. The woman I spoke to put me on hold for 30 minutes! By that time it was 10 minutes to 2pm so I hung up and called back. I was then transferred 2 times and the first lady told me that they probably got busy and forgot I was on hold! I then spoke to a sergeant and he said he would send someone down to him right away. I said, “OK, I’ll hold until you do.” He was like, “NO,” so I told him I wanted him to call me back. He said he would have XXXXXX call me once they got the issue taken care of. I asked, “Today?” He was like, “Well, I hope so.” I expressed my worry and that this was an emergency and he said he was heading down to XXXXXX immediately. I still have not heard anything so I don’t know if they followed through. I am planning to call back here shortly if I don’t get a call. This is craziness and is plain WRONG and has to stop. I am beyond worried sick and feel so helpless, I don’t know what to do anymore.
Anyways I just wanted to give you an update. I am sure I will have more to come. He has not been telling me details of what’s going on in there, just that “it’s real bad” and he is just trying to turn his head the other way, stay out of the way and get parole in XXXXXXXXX. I wrote him and then today told him that he needs to tell me what is going on. Thank you for all you have been doing to keep reporting on these problems. I will send you an update when I can.
On Tuesday, she provided the following update:
Hi Sharon…Let me tell you it has been a roller coaster ride since I talked to you last. So I wrote you last Thursday and I had called and been assured they would check on XXXXXX. Well, he called me Friday morning and of course they did not. I got his cell number so that I was able to tell them the next time I called. He told me he was just gonna try and figure out a way to pay the guy because he didn’t want to be in segregation, I told him not to but only got to talk to him for a short time. Well, then, later that day the Warden’s Secretary, Jil, I believe her name was, called; she was returning my call because I had left a message the day before. I explained the issue, she took a “report” and kept saying he was in cell XXXX and I told her over and over he was in cell XXXX, so they didn’t even have his cell number listed right. Anyways she ASSURED me that there would be an investigation asap. I asked her a few questions about the way PC worked there and she gave me limited info but kept saying it would be “thoroughly investigated”. I also was trying to get them to give him a tv that was sent to him but they would not because he had a previous write-up from March (It was from NWCX and should have never happened, but anyways) so Jil refused but I wanted to talk to someone above her so she transferred me to the associate warden and it was a generic voicemail so I do not know exactly who I was transferred to but I left a message with them about my concern for these threats and the tv issue and of course never got a call back. So I felt better, I thought, “OK, now they have his cell number and this will be taken care of”…well, at about 5:30pm Friday I received a call from XXXXXX’s celly and he was calling to tell me that XXXXXX was in a very bad place, that he was being told now that he had to come up with $300 by lockdown or would be butchered and none of the CO’s would do anything when he was requesting PC. He read me a note that XXXXXX had wrote asking me to call and explaining that it was bad and if they didn’t move him this was the end and he loved me. It just showed how scared XXXXXX was. Never in his entire 5 years in there has he said anything like that to me; he was truly afraid for his life. So I began calling the prison; the first lady said I would have to call back after 9am Saturday. I told her she must be out of her damn mind if she thinks I was going to wait, this is an emergency, his life is in danger and I will not get off this phone until I know he was ok. I requested to speak to someone above her, a supervisor someone. She said there was an incident that the captain was working on so she would take a message and have him call me back so I left my info but assured her if I didn’t get a call back I would be calling in a half-hour. Well, of course I did not get a call back, I kept calling and it got to the point that she would say “XXXXXXX, we have your info and the Captain is still busy.” Finally at like 11:30pm I got to talk to someone else and I was so upset crying because I still had gotten nowhere. The guy took a report and was writing everything down supposedly. I told him he needed to call me back; he would not but told me to call back in a half-hour. So I called and he proceeded to tell me that XXXXXX was going to segregation for failing a drug test but not for Protective Custody but I didn’t need to worry because it is the same place he would go if he were to go to Protective Custody. I said, “Oh, so do you randomly drug test or something?” He said, “Yeah.” I asked, “Well, are you going to investigate the issue with the threats he was getting?” and he said, “Honestly, no, not unless he gets butchered because that is just what happens in here.” I was so upset I wish I would have gotten his name but I was so worried and just wanted to be sure XXXXXX was safe. Anyways so I called and left a message with Tony Howerton 2 times crying the second time and he never has called me back or answered. I called this weekend asking when they would let him use the phone, but no one knew how the phone worked back there. I got somewhat of an explanation Saturday night but it was all BS, come to find out. So today XXXXXX was finally able to call me and this is what really happened. So after he had his celly call me he kept asking for PC and was told he would have to wait until Monday morning but told them that was too late. Finally he told one lady, “Fine, put me on suicide watch.” So late Friday sometime they took him for a mental evaluation and when they were escorting him there they said, “OK, well, before you go you have to take a drug test and he was like, “Fine.” They took the test and then had someone come to evaluate him and he said he wasn’t suicidal but scared for his life and they then sent an officer to talk to him who was just pushing him saying, “Oh, so you really will sign a statement?” and just antagonizing him. Then he proceeded to tell XXXXXX he failed the drug test and XXXXXX said, “There is no way; send it to the lab.” They ended up writing him up for failing the drug test and defiance. He has fought the drug test charge and they already threw it out because they didn’t seal it in front of him and it was just all BS, I’m sure, because they didn’t even attempt to send it to the lab. Now he is trying to fight the defiance charge and they still will not give him PCI which is what they call it there, “protective custody investigation?” Idk but I feel like this is all because I was calling and nobody has said one thing to him about me calling. He has been telling them that I have called but not one person has checked on him or said anything about me calling. I am scared because his Parole hearing is in XXXXXXX and I don’t want this to be used against him. He said they are shipping people that are complaining constantly so he thinks he could be shipped but doesn’t know. Then I asked if he had seen the doctor for his stomach or kidneys and he has not. Yesterday I got a letter and he was saying he was in almost constant pain. Well, I had shared the article you wrote that said food they were serving in there was labeled “not fit for human consumption” and there was a couple family members of other inmates that have seen the same thing. My sister researched this issue online and we were horrified to find blogs saying this happens in prisons and they do it until there is enough complaining. It explained what some of this “food” is; I am in shock. I told him to quit eating that crap and I feel that he could have some sort of food poisoning. My sister and I are working on a letter tonight to send to any top personnel to try and get this stopped. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but XXXXX XXXXXXXXX gave me the name of the attorney she is working with and I had emailed him this morning before I spoke to XXXXXX so I am waiting for him to respond and hoping that we will be able to fight the defiance write-up at the least. It is not fair that XXXXXX’s Parole could be denied because they are running these prisons this way. So that is where we are at right now. I am hoping to hear from the attorney soon and hope he will be able to do something. Thank you again for listening and continued support. I will update you when anything changes.