by Sharon Rondeau

(May 13, 2017) — On April 27, 2017, Tennessee inmate Grenda Harmer was placed in segregation, or solitary confinement, at the South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) on a “pending investigation” (PI) status.

One of the reasons alleged for PI status was “possible attempt to intimidate,” which Harmer said is not a valid offense according to Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) policies.

Although SCCF is a privately-owned and operated facility, it is required to follow the TDOC’s written policies and procedures.  The Post & Email has been told that the TDOC provides regular oversight to the state’s privately-owned prisons, and the state’s newest prison, TTCC, was compelled to stop admitting inmates last year due to staffing shortages and other irregularities identified by TDOC administrator Tony Howerton.

Harmer was housed at TTCC, another CoreCivic prison, from July 2016 through April 5.

In response to our request for comment last summer on reported prison conditions in both government-run and privately-operated prisons, TDOC Communications Director Neysa Taylor denied the accounts we related as “inaccurate” but encouraged family members to contact her with any concerns. “We’re very open,” she told us.

However, inmates’ relatives have told The Post & Email that they fear for retaliation against their loved ones if they were to do so.

Tennessee’s four private prisons are owned by CoreCivic, the country’s largest detention corporation.  CoreCivic executives and TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker have been completely unresponsive to our requests for comment on the myriad reports we have received stating that medical care and treatment of prisoners are far below the state’s professed standards.  Such reports include alleged physical assault of inmates by correction officers, denial of prescription medications or irregular administration, and frequent 23-hour lockdowns.

Uncontrolled gang activity has been extensively reported by TTCC inmates and their relatives, including some relatives who have visited at scheduled visitation times.

Since being placed in solitary confinement, Harmer has reported no running hot water, black mold in the shower area, and no surface for meals or for storing one’s clothing.  His other personal possessions were confiscated before he was placed in segregation on April 27.

At the time, Harmer was told he would be confined to segregation for a week, but his most recent letter, dated May 6 and received on Friday, indicated that he remains there facing additional disciplinary measures which he claimed are unwarranted.  “The reason SCCC prison officials (CoreCivic employees and one TDOC employee) snatched me out of population so quick is they didn’t want a repeat of what happened at the Trousdale prison,” he wrote.  “They didn’t want me getting settled in.  And they seen I was quickly becoming settled in.  So they trumped up a false PI report.  To be honest it’s not me they’re afraid of…”

He later added, “I’m still in segregation even though my PI is over with, which proves my point…”

On page 3, he revealed that “The institutional investigator never came to see me at any time.  They didn’t have anything on me.  The whole PI thing was a sham to get me up out of the general population.”

Harmer has appealed his continuing segregation to Parker, copied to CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger.

“Now I’m being held for D-Board on another trumped up charge for destruction of state property.  I told them I’d never plead guilty to something I wasn’t guilty of.  As of writing you today I’ve still not received any medications,” he wrote.

As part of its due diligence, The Post & Email located the TDOC Offender Handbook online.  On page 9, the charge of “attempt to intimidate employee” appears as a “Class B” infraction, but “possible attempt to intimidate” is not found anywhere in the document.

On page 7 of the policy section titled “Uniform Disciplinary Procedures,” circumstances for placing an inmate in segregation are listed, none of which includes “possible attempt to intimidate.”

Another alleged infraction against Harmer was a “Personal Property Violation” alleging that Harmer had “1 pair of Vibrum boots not on said I/M’s property list.”

However, the boots were on his property list, and the disciplinary report was dismissed.


When he arrived on at SCCF on April 5 from TTCC, his eyeglasses and a foam wedge recommended by a physician following surgery were taken and not returned.  At the time, Harmer related to The Post & Email that his medications would soon run out and that he was told he would not be able to see a doctor for two weeks.

An April 29 letter written by The Post & Email to SCCF Warden Cherry Lindamood about the confiscation of the two medical devices received no response.

Medically, Harmer, 64, suffers from acid reflux disease, degenerative joint disease, and another malady affecting daily bodily functioning.  The latter is arguably the most serious of the three conditions.  In a letter dated May 6 received on Friday, he said his medications had not been restored and his grievances filed on the matter ignored.

The TDOC’s policy on inmate grievances accessed from its website indicates that it became effective October 1, 2012 and expired on October 1, 2015, with no update apparently available.  The section states that “The TDOC shall ensure that every inmate has the right to utilize the grievance procedure without fear of reprisal. All grievances shall be considered in a fair and impartial manner and resolved at the lowest possible level in the grievance procedure.”

Harmer has reported requesting grievance forms without receiving a response from prison staff, although the stated policy on that issue reads (page 2) that “Inmates shall have unimpeded access to these grievance forms.”

On page 4 of the policy section, it is stated that “The good faith use of, or good faith participation in, the grievance process will not result in formal or informal reprisals against an inmate.”

CoreCivic employs Correct Care Solutions (CCS) to provide medical care within its facilities.  On Tuesday, The Post & Email contacted CCS through its website portal for media inquiries.  Later that day, we received a response from spokesman Jim Cheney stating that he would look into our question regarding why CCS was not administering Harmer’s medications.

Cheney is the same spokesman The Post & Email contacted, along with Taylor, after Harmer’s medications were discontinued at TTCC in late February.  Having made contact on March 16, Harmer’s medications were restored on March 17.

A nine-page section of the TDOC Administrative Policies and Procedures dealing with inmate medical care provides extensive and detailed guidance as to the 24-hour access inmates are to have in Tennessee prisons.

At the bottom of page 4, specific instructions are put forth for inmates in segregation:

Harmer has reported that he has seen a “mid-level provider” since his arrival at SCCF but not a physician.

On page 5 of the manual, it states, “Inmates housed in segregation, detention, or holding units shall receive their daily-prescribed medications.”

The policies contained in the manual expire on February 1, 2018.

Following our receipt of Harmer’s letter on Friday indicating that, as of May 6, he remained without medications, we recontacted Cheney.  No response was received as of the close of business on Friday.

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  1. As a former employee of Core Civic Detention Center in Nashville, I too can attest to the complete disregard for human value exemplified by higher ranking Core Civic officials. And that disregard is inclusive of inmates as well as employees. Further, if you try to bring any attention to wrongdoing or noncompliance issues or even different political perspectives, you place yourself in the company’s crosshairs. Private prison companies such as the multi million dollar Core Civic are in business to make money-that is the bottom line. Sacrifices are made in what the correctional officers are paid, how they’re trained, what they’re prepared for, and the disrespectful treatment they endure from inmates and higher ranking employers. Inmates experience frustration when attempting to compute their ‘time to serve’ because of what is advertised as ‘good time’, ‘time and 1/2’, time taken off for goals reached, etc. And no one with the requisite knowledge to address such issues is ever available for explanation. As a result, inmates can spend extra time incarcerated at the facility, making Core Civic more money every day. As an employee that wasn’t a correction officer, I had a different set of responsibilities as well as a different rapport with inmates and higher ranking officials at the facility. I also received training for my job, but it did not include security training, preventing me from carrying pepper spray as officers did. I worked on a hallway where an officer was assigned to be on duty, but that officer was often pulled to cover other duties elsewhere. To clarify, this left myself and 3 other non security trained employees in rooms with inmates on a closed hallway. Each of us was responsible for between 5-15 inmates individually. At one point the knob on my door broke. It no longer functioned. It was further damaged by an officer performing a security check of the hallway who pulled the broken knob off and the room inaccessible except thru a neighboring room & adjoining restroom. I attempted to rig it open using duct tape & a dry erase marker. It was briefly treated as a joke, pointed at and laughed at. However, an AW noticed it, ordered maintenance workers to remove the rigging, then close the door. This would’ve left me locked in a room with 8-10 male inmates with no means of egress except the adjoining bathroom and neighboring room. Fortunately for me, colleagues intervened and the plan was called off. However, I had to rig the door again and then work knowing my room could be accessed by anyone at anytime. I had items stolen from the room and was told not to leave anything of value in there. I waited and then asked the Warden in a public meeting when I could expect a repaired door. ‘It’s been ordered.’ I’d already had maintenance workers tell me the same thing for weeks. I filed a complaint. Not long after I was placed on administrative leave and subsequently fired from my position. I’m currently fighting a court battle that’s been ongoing for 14 months now. Privatization of our penal facilities, as well as the detention centers housing immigrant adults and children, some also maintained by Core Civic, is a bad idea. The multi billion dollar companies, such as Core Civic, are concerned with maximizing profit at the expense of human beings. The goal is increasing the profit margin, not rehabilitation or paying a livable wage or even maintaining facilities in an effort to secure and protect. Officers are woefully under trained and shifts under staffed. Inmates wait indeterminate lengths of time for medical attention, have dietary requirements ignored, and are berated by overwhelmed staff in search of compliance and respect. It’s repugnant and unfortunately overlooked because nothing ‘too’ bad has manifested yet. I’m afraid for the day when it can no longer be ignored.

  2. SCCF staff doesn’t follow TDOC POLICIES, or even Core Civic policies, like they should & they’re not going to. The Deputy Warden of SCCF verbally told an Inmate while he was on the phone with his family member that SCCF isn’t run by TDOC, that it was his prison & he’d run it how he damn well wanted to until TDOC came down there & told him otherwise. I know for a fact that inmates don’t get the medical attention they deserve & is required to be given to them either. I know of an Inmate right now that has had a broken mandible since April & they have told him there’s nothing wrong with him. To this day he can move the 2 pieces of bone in his mandible & is probably going to lose 2 of his teeth because no one has done a damn thing. He was afraid to push it though because they tend to “punish” the Inmates for rocking the boat so-to-speak & filing grievances or doing anything to help themselves. & don’t even get me started on the gang violence that they down right ignore there & actually cater to gang members which causes major issues & physical problems on the Imatest who aren’t gang members. That Prison is hands down the 2nd in line for being the worst prison in TN.