CLAIM: MEDICATIONS NOT DISPENSED WHILE PRISON ON FREQUENT LOCKDOWN
by Sharon Rondeau
The prison opened in January and has been plagued with a variety of problems, beginning with severe short-staffing and the acceptance of “the most dangerous inmates,” according to eyewitnesses.
While TTCC is owned and operated by a private company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), it reportedly receives oversight from the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). TDOC spokeswoman Neysa Taylor has told The Post & Email that the myriad reports it has been gathering about conditions there are “inaccurate.”
An inmate letter received on Monday reported that a prison guard was recently brutally assaulted by gang members, while the relative of another inmate reported that raw sewage has backed up several times in one of the bathrooms.
A third report received by email on Monday morning relates what is likely a second account of the attack on the correction officer said to have occurred on September 3.
On August 18, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will not be renewing existing contracts with private prison operators, including CCA, as they expire.
A common theme stated by inmates and relatives who visit them is that minimum-security prisoners brought to TTCC from other facilities are housed with gang members in maximum-security conditions, which involves between 20 and 23 hours daily of solitary confinement. Mainstream media reports have confirmed the findings.
A third relative described “abuse of authority by the COs” to The Post & Email in a recent phone interview. Of the general conditions at the prison, she said, “They have been on lockdown on and off. I know at the beginning of August, there was an incident, and they were locked down for five days, and then a week or so after, they were locked down for another five days. While they are locked down, they do not receive their commissary. My husband has a chronic condition and is supposed to take medication on a daily basis, but he doesn’t receive it when they’re on lockdown, and when he doesn’t receive his medication for several days, the treatment fails. So that’s a big issue right there.”
“He told me that when they are locked down, although they normally receive one hot meal a day, when they receive their meal, the food is already cold,” she continued.
As a minimum-security prisoner, the relative said her husband “does not need to be locked up 20 hours a day. He also said that if an incident happens in another pod, everybody gets locked down; it doesn’t matter whose fault it was.”
Grievance forms are said to be unaddressed by TTCC staff, and the relative corroborated a number of similar accounts reporting that no jobs are available for inmates, as would be expected.
“Another issue they’ve had recently is that the drain gets clogged up, and it’s not being fixed. They clean it up, but it keeps happening again. That’s not sanitary at all,” she said.
On Friday night, a relative described her visit the weekend before as having encompassed a 2.5-hour wait time. When she was finally able to see her loved one, they visited for 90 minutes. However, she described a disturbing development:
We were there, and my five-year-old daughter was sitting with my husband. The CO came over to our table and publicly reprimanded him, then made my daughter move to different chair. My husband said, “It’s my daughter,” and the CO said, “I don’t care” and just walked away. It was horrible for my daughter.
We didn’t know, because we never had that issue where he was before. He’s been in prison a year now. They weren’t that strict at the other prison the way they are at TTCC.
I’m trying my best to have him moved to a facility which isn’t a CCA prison.
When my husband first arrived at TTCC, his cellmate was affiliated with a gang. I was scared to death when they put him with him, because they had already found some contraband with that other guy. My husband’s cell was getting checkups every day; if they’d found anything there, then he would have been blamed for it.
After one of the first lockdowns they had, they moved the cellmate and he has a better one now.
My husband has never been written up; he has low (negative) points and is classified as minimum (security). At the other prison, he was doing very well; he had started GED classes and was recommended for a job. Over there, he had the opportunity to earn “good” credits, but at TTCC, he’s not doing anything, so he’s not earning any credits.
The relative said that her husband arrived at TTCC at “the end of June/beginning of July,” although an unfavorable report by a TDOC official had apparently caused TTCC to cease accepting new inmates in mid-May. Neither TDOC nor CCA has offered an explanation as to why the prison has again been taking new inmates.