by Sharon Rondeau

(Mar. 31, 2019) — On Friday The Post & Email received a six-page mailing from Tennessee state inmate Dennis W. Martin, #157498, who is housed at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) in Hartsville.

The letter, dated March 6, 2019, was addressed to the American Correctional Association (ACA) in Alexandria, VA, although we received what appears to be an original.  In it, Mr. Martin related an incident in which he said a prison nurse was inadvertently locked in his cell in the infirmary and that despite their “Banging onto the cell’s door” for 15 minutes, “Nobody Came To Our Rescue.”

The subject line of the letter reads, “THIS COULD HAVE TURNED TRAGIC!!!”

In total, Martin claims, the nurse was locked inside his cell “for approximately (40) minutes or more.”  He attributes the lack of response to their pleas for help to short-staffing, a problem reported not only by dozens of inmates to this publication, but also in a November 2017 audit produced by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.

The prison and its operator, CoreCivic, have reportedly paid more than $2 million in fines since late 2017; whether or not those fines were a result of the audit is unclear.  All privately-run prisons ultimately report to the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) and receive close oversight, according to Department spokeswoman Neysa Taylor.

Martin said that he was relocated to the infirmary after suffering a stroke and is using a cane for ambulation.

After unsuccessfully banging on the door for assistance, Martin reported, he “came up with another solution,” which was to utilize the two emergency call buttons located on his cell walls. “I asked the Nurse-Who’s name is-(Ms. Vick) if she would start (Pushing) the button that was located on the back wall of my cell, while I (Pushed) the-(Emergency Call Button) that is located on my (Shower Wall), in hope that the “Medical Department’s Officer” would some-how hear it’s chime going off, or that the Employees of (Central-Control) would Respond to the “Emergency Calling System” due to it being connected to Central-Control,” he wrote on page 2. [sic]

At the bottom of that page, he said that, “The only way that the Nurse and I received help, was when one of the Medical Department’s Nurses-Named-(Steffeson), just so happen to enter into the Medical Department’s Infirmary, and noticed that I-(Mr. Martin) were leaning onto the glass-window of my cell’s door due to me not being able to fully stand-up-due to A recent (Stroke), which is part of the reason why I’m housed in it’s infirmary.”

Ultimately, Martin reported on page 3, an Officer “K. Smith” “stated that the reason why she didn’t hear us banging onto the cell’s door, was because she was Over In Central-Control-(doing (3) write-ups), in fact she had just got through with them!!!”

Martin said that Smith had informed Nurse Vick that the prison was “Short On Staff,” which reportedly caused Smith to have to cover three physical positions at once. “They Are Short, All Of The Time. but (Falsely) report that They Are Fully-Staffed,” Martin wrote on page 3.

Further, Martin related on page 4, the failure of a staffer to respond to an emergency call button on February 17 “is not the first time” such an incident has occurred.  “I can reflect back on numerous of times when the employees of Central Control blatantly, failed to answer in my call for help,” he expounded. “In that particular incident, I ended up being Hospitalized, due to the Employees Of Central-Control Not Answering The-Emergency Call Button of my previous cell assignment, ware as, I Suffered a (Heart-Attack) and thereby had to be “Shocked Back Into Life” and, thereafter, had to have a “Pacemaker” Surgically implanted.”

Later on that page, Martin alleged that prison management obscures its staffing problem “in their attempts to continue receiving the Credits-(Money) that they receive for Programs…”

Other inmates have reported TTCC as well as several of Tennessee’s state-run facilities enrolling inmates in “ghost jobs” and educational programs which either do not exist or for which the inmates so enrolled do not qualify.

Martin said he mailed his letter, along with affidavits from two inmates who he said “witnessed this particular incident, and whom were also told by Select Staff that they were short on staff” to the individuals listed on page 6.

Page 5 is titled, “VERIFICATION OF FACTS” and bears a notary’s stamp and signature dated March 8, 2019.

Page 6, labeled “CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE,” is missing the mailing date as well as the cost of mailing.  However, its final recipient, this writer, received her copy with a supporting letter from an inmate in an envelope postmarked March 20, 2019.

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