Audit: Staff Shortage, Report Errors At Some Private Prisons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Auditors say the nation's largest private prison provider has been operating some prisons in Tennessee short-staffed, hasn't send the state some reports and provided others with errors.

The Tennessee comptroller audit Tuesday addressed CoreCivic's lockups. In a three-day-a-month sample between October 2016 and June 2017, auditors found Trousdale Turner Correctional Center and Whiteville Correctional Facility were consistently short-staffed, including fewer than the state-approved number of correctional officers.

State legislators Bo Mitchell and Mike Stewart said the low staffing numbers put the general public at risk. 

"You either put corrections officers at risk, you put other inmates who are just trying to serve their time at risk, or you put the general public at risk when they escape," said Mitchell.

The audit says 44 critical Trousdale posts were unstaffed in three different days in three months. Auditors found errors in reports from Trousdale and Hardeman County Correctional Center, while Trousdale didn't provide half the signed shift rosters requested.

Mitchell and Stewart said they would not reauthorize the Department of Correction Wednesday at a meeting. The two legislators said they want to have the two facilities investigated.

"This is not mere incompetence, but there's a darker implication which is a deliberate failure to turn over information. So, today we have explosive findings. Clearly we have CoreCivic facilities are a powder keg waiting to explode, potentially endangering the public," said Stewart.

Amanda Gilchrist, spokeswoman for CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, says there's still work to do at the almost-two-year-old Trousdale, but progress has been made.  

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