by Sharon Rondeau

(Apr. 3, 2017) — The Post & Email has learned from a reliable source that a description of the Morgan County Correctional Complex (MCCX) as being a “hands-on” facility, where correction officers batter the inmates, is accurate.

Prisoners at the Wartburg, TN facility have previously communicated to The Post & Email that inmates sustaining beatings and injuries at the hands of correction officers is a common occurrence which is then concealed by placing the victim in solitary confinement until the evidence is obscured.

In a report received on Monday, we were informed that new inmates are initiated into their new surroundings by being told that it is a “‘hands-on’ facility, which meant that inmates would be beaten down.”

The source said that a correction officer with the title of “corporal” is known to be “sadistic” as evidenced by his reported ordering of “inmates to assault other inmates with the threat of being beaten down by officers” should they fail to comply.  “This same officer instructed an inmate to hit himself repeatedly or risk being beaten down by officers,” the source told us.

Also reported was that correction officers “take inmates outside of the view of cameras, assault them and leave them in ‘the hole’ until the wounds had healed.”

The account corroborates those of inmate Richard A. Mayers, a wheelchair-bound inmate who recently reported that he was punched in the ribs by correction officers and taken to “the Hole,” or solitary confinement, without cause.

Most inmates and their relatives do not dare to speak out for fear of retaliation, although The Post & Email has heard from dozens of individuals in both categories describing daily horrors within Tennessee prison walls.

The perpetrators of the physical abuse have been called “criminals with a badge,” and inmates have been asking for accountability from prison management and their supervisors at the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) to no avail.

State law mandates that prison wardens see to it that inmates are treated with “humanity and kindness.”

In February, an inmate petition requesting an FBI investigation of the conditions at MCCX was sent to U.S. Senator from Tennessee Robert Corker.

The TDOC routinely denies reports of wrongdoing, at least publicly, within the 14 prisons it oversees.

On February 2, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two Mississippi correction officers confessed to the beating of an inmate who sustained permanent, life-changing injuries and for attempting to conceal the crime, respectively.

The press release begins:

The Justice Department announced that Mississippi corrections officer, Lawardrick Marsher, pleaded guilty today in federal court to beating an inmate in Mississippi’s Parchman prison. A second officer, Robert Sturdivant, pleaded guilty to helping conceal the beating of the inmate.

According to his guilty plea, Marsher, 29, used excessive force in punching and kicking the victim, identified as K.H., who suffered a broken orbital bone, permanent vision loss and severe blood loss. The assault occurred on March 9, 2014. Marsher also admitted to submitting a false report and lying to the FBI. Sturdivant, 47, Marsher’s supervisor, admitted that he also punched and kicked K.H. and urged fellow officers to submit false statements to their department and to lie to the FBI.

Justice Department officials were quoted as having stated that the inmate’s constitutional rights were violated.

An FBI agent involved in the case commented, “Occasionally, incarceration can lead to an emotionally charged atmosphere, but we lose credibility and moral authority when prison guards are guilty of violating the civil rights of those they are sworn to protect. While incarcerated individuals have relinquished their right to freedom, they have not renounced their civil rights.”

The case was investigated by the Jackson, MS FBI office in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

In early February, The Post & Email brought the conditions of Tennessee prisons to the attention of the White House.  We have yet to receive a response.

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  1. I was an inmate in the prison system of Tennessee,and served 21 years straight,and served three different stints at Mccx,and I never recalled such behavior from “any” officers.I was a handful myself,and there were times when officers could have beaten me and gotten away with,simply because how I acted,but they “never” did and I am grateful today.
    Things may have changed since i was released.I don’t know.

  2. I’ve never been incarcerated myself; I’ve never committed a crime. I have, however had the opportunity to speak with 2 inmates (separately) of Tennessee State prisons, who described conditions to me.
    Both commented, “Drugs are far easier to obtain inside than they were outside of prison.” Both told of the control exercised by two gangs. One white supremacist group offers protection to anyone willing to join them in hate crimes. The other gang moves drugs inside the prison and extorts money from the loved ones on the outside. Both operate with ease while bribing guards. Beatings are frequent; isolation is used to allow the signs of beatings to subside.
    I firmly believe in punishment for crimes. But I firmly believe we owe even criminals safe and humane treatment.

  3. I was released from MCCX in June 2017. I have seen these incidents with my own eyes. MCCX is very corrupt,and yes the C/O’s do beat inmates. Also it is true they let gang bangers beat up other inmates that have gotten disciplinary write ups. It crazy at MCCX. Your talked to like your trash by the C/O’s I could go on for days but something needs to be done.

  4. I was a teacher at the Tennessee State Prison in Morgan County, but that was about 20-25 years ago. The kind of things this article described, I did not see in those days –but that is not to say that things haven’t changed drastically since then.
    However, I’m sharing one incident that I saw back in those days. In my class room, I have about 20 men, both Whites and Blacks. Most of the men were working in their workbooks, and I went around helping whichever one needed help. However, there was one Black guy that who never studied, or asked for help. But I was so busy that I didn’t even go to him to ask if he needed any help. This is how I would describe him: A sly, weezie character.
    However, one Monday morning, he came up to me and said, “I want to talk to you in your office.” And I thought, “Why would this criminal want to come into my office and close the door? But my ‘office’ was surrounded by glass, and all of the inmates could see what was happening. We went in the office, and he closed the door. The first words that came out of his mouth were, “I just wanted you to know, this weekend, I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ”. I just stood there, speechless, dumb-founded —those were the last words I expected to hear from him.
    James, former teacher at the Tennessee State Prison at Morgan County, Tennessee.