PRIVATE SECURITY GUARDS, NO EMPLOYMENT, INACCESSIBILITY OF LAW LIBRARY REMAIN
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 1, 2016) — Two inmates at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Complex (TTCC) with whom The Post & Email has been corresponding have reported this week that minor improvements in living conditions at the facility have been made.
Both inmates wrote in letters received on Friday that minimum-security prisoners have recently been able to eat some of their meals at the “chow hall,” as was the case at the institutions from which they came.
The second letter informed us that, “It’s got a little better but not much.”
Over the last two months, a multitude of complaints from inmates and their relatives about unwarranted solitary confinement, hours-long wait times for relatives to enjoy visitation with their incarcerated family members, substandard food and a lack of employment opportunities resulted in mainstream media coverage of the troubled facility opened in early January without adequate staffing or protocols in place.
As The Post & Email reported previously and was confirmed again in one of the letters, a private security company is currently providing personnel to act as TTCC correction officers.
The facility was considered an “economic development opportunity” by the Trousdale County mayor in 2013, who petitioned then-Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Derrick Schofield to approve the construction of a multi-million-dollar prison facility at the privately-owned site at the expense of its owner, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
CCA is the largest private prison operator in the United States. CCA has not responded to The Post & Email’s requests for comment about the conditions at TTCC.
After the arrival of approximately 1,600 inmates from various Tennessee prisons over the spring, TTCC was forced to stop accepting new transfers as a result of inadequate staffing which led to dangerous conditions and numerous violations of TDOC policies.
In mid-March, a TDOC official, Tony Howerton, documented a number of policy breaches and what appeared to be excessive use of force against an inmate by a correction officer.
Tennessee law allows for only one privately-operated prison within the state, yet there are four CCA-run prisons within the 14-facility statewide system. According to Dave Boucher of The Tennessean, the TTCC//CCA arrangement is “something of a pass-through” wherein “Trousdale pays the money to CCA after receiving the money from the state.”
One inmate’s letter reported that there are still no employment opportunities for those who were working at their previous facilities. “They have a job coordinator here that doest [sic] believe in responding to any request about a job. There’s jobs that she can put people on, like the kitchen or yard crew and rockmen and other jobs. There’s people that had put in 20 or more job request forms and hasn’t got anything back. You can either fill out an job request or a inmate request either way Ms Pendleton is not going to answer,” he wrote.
The second inmate continues to report that access to the law library is extremely limited. “T.D.O.C. would allow us one hour per day when we showed we have pending matters,” he wrote, contrasting his current situation with that of his former TDOC-run institution.
He reported that because of a death in the family of the person who runs the law library, access has been impossible of late. “I am not asking for special favors,” he added, “But this place ‘cannot’ just leave the library closed for a week due to a death in someones family.” [sic] “The library has to have a system where someone has it open in case of this,” he wrote.
Obtaining medical care, which is provided by a private contractor, is reportedly still virtually impossible.
Several inmates’ relatives indicated to The Post & Email over the last several weeks that any prison in Tennessee, even those considered to be the most dangerous, were considered better than TTCC. One inmate reportedly requesting protective custody on a Friday was initially told,, “You have to wait until Monday.”
One of the letters follows with name redacted to avoid retaliation.
A larger version of the letter follows.
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.