“ALL OF THEM HAD BUTCHERS (KNIFES)”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 2, 2017) — The Post & Email has received another report from an inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Complex (TTCC) in Hartsville, TN of warden and staff misconduct, a knife fight among five other inmates, inadequate hygiene supplies, and alleged coercion on the part of correction officers.
The prison, on which this publication has reported extensively in the past, is Tennessee’s newest and largest but has been plagued with problems in its less-than-two-year history.
Approximately three months ago, Rusty Washburn replaced Blair Leibach as Trousdale’s warden. Washburn is mentioned in the documentation recently received by The Post & Email, and conditions are reported as no better than before.
In June the facility was the subject of a four-part series by Nashville’s WSMV-TV investigated by award-winning journalist Demetria Kalodimos. Although excoriated by the prison owner/operator, CoreCivic afterward, the channel has stood by its reportage on events and conditions, which included on-air interviews and obtaining supporting documentation.
“It’s a challenge to tell the story of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility when no one from the state or the prison will grant an interview or a tour of the facility,” a caption to the first segment in the series reads.
One part of the series focused on gang activity and a reported lack of security among both inmates and staff.
Shortly before the broadcasts were aired, CoreCivic was sued for allegedly failing to notify health officials immediately when scabies emerged at the Harding Road women’s prison which the company runs. The company has also been sued a group of diabetic TTCC inmates who alleged that their condition was not treated properly.
Last summer, The Post & Email was told by Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) spokeswoman Neysa Taylor that the TDOC is responsible for providing oversight to the state’s privately-operated prisons, which she said occurs on a “daily” basis.
When the object of a complaint, however, the TDOC has denied responsibility for the actions of CoreCivic employees.
Tennessee law provides for only one private prison facility in the state, but CoreCivic currently operates eight, according to The Tennessean. The Post & Email has been told, and Dave Boucher of The Tennessean has reported, that the law is circumvented by a “pass-through” arrangement where the funds flow from the state to the county and then to CoreCivic.
A common problem reported in the most recent inmate letter is that of mail delivery. “We [sic] mail comes in the CO [correction officer] will put it in the office or a locked drawer and not pass it out,” he wrote. “Mail will sometimes not get passed out for days at a time. My mother had bought me a book from Amazon and she had tracked it here. My book arrived at this prison 3-12-17, it is now 4-10-17 and I have not received my book!”
The Post & Email has attempted on a number of occasions to contact CoreCivic representatives about the myriad of reports it has received about TTCC and the South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) but has received no response. Early this year, a formal letter sent to CoreCivic Executive Vice President Harley Lappin and copied to TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker and Taylor went unanswered.
On page 13, the inmate described an incident in which four inmates were allowed to enter a “pod,” or section of the prison, by a correction officer, then proceeded to attack another inmate with knives. Although also armed, the single inmate reportedly suffered injuries to his “head, face & neck.”
While Taylor has continued to insist that the reports from inmates and their relatives are “inaccurate,” similar accounts from inmates not previously heard from by this publication constantly mirror those we have received over the last 16 months, as in the letter below.
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.