TTCC Inmate Writes Scathing Letter to Tennessee Governor over Lack of Prison Security, “Gang-Bangers”

CLAIMS CORRECTION OFFICERS “AFRAID OF THE GANG MEMBERS”

by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 28, 2016) — The following copy of a letter directed to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was received by The Post & Email on Wednesday from Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) inmate Grenda Harmer and corroborates numerous other inmates’ accounts of gang members which are reported to be allowed to roam the prison at will, committing theft, personal injury and intimidation of others in the wake of a facility unequipped or unwilling to correct the problem.

For nearly eight months, The Post & Email has been publishing the statements received from dozens of inmates at the privately-run facility in Hartsville, TN, which some relatives and other concerned outsiders have called the worst prison in which their loved ones have ever spent time.

Thus far, the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), which allegedly provides oversight to all prisons in the state, has categorically denied the reports, despite an Associated Press article published in May relating similar violations amid short-staffing.

TTCC is owned and operated by CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison operator in the country.

Last week, we received a short note from Harmer which has now been more fully explained.  His current letter claims that “TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker, Warden Blair Leibach, Deputy Warden Jerry Wardlow, and STG Coordinator refuse to ensure the security and safety of the facility, the employees and inmates by effectively dealing with inmates who engage in ‘disruptive behavior’ and/or ‘STG activity.'”

“STG” stands for “Security Threat Group.”

Harmer relates a now frequently-invoked incident at TTCC occurring on Thanksgiving Day in which he claims that three gang members sustained stab wounds.  “The worse [sic] part of it it [sic] was the fault of the above TDOC officials that put the gang-bangers right back into the same toxic environment,” he wrote.

The incident has been termed by some inmates’ relatives as a “riot,” a claim which TDOC Communications Director Neysa Taylor has denied.  One inmate termed it a “major gang war.”

“Gang members at TTCC are constantly engaging is [sic] disruptive behavior and STG activity because they know there will be no holding them accountable for their disruptive behavior and STG activity because TTCC prison officials are afraid of the gang members,” Harmer continued.

He further maintained that negligent corrections personnel should be “criminally charged.”

After requesting that the TDOC and TTCC implement the TDOC’s own policies in dealing with gang members, he told Haslam, “If I get hurt I will sue for negligence. I have adequately warned you and TDOC prison officials and have requested numerous times to deal with these idiot gang-bankers. So far everyone has refused.”

His letter, a number of Tennessee legislator, this writer, Jeannie Alexander of the No Exceptions Prison Cooperative (NEPC), and two other journalists, concludes with, “Maybe you and your cronies should re-think about contracting the care of prisoners to companies who do not have a clue about how to safely operate a prison.”

Haslam, who was elected to a second term in 2014, has thus far remained unresponsive to reports about prison corruption as well as the hand-selection of grand jury foremen by judges without a vetting process, contradicting Tennessee law.

In August, the US Department of Justice announced that it would not be renewing contracts with private prison operators, a decision which did not necessarily impose itself upon the states.

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