Rally Addresses Concerns At Tennessee Prisons

Posted at 9:11 PM, Dec 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-12 10:27:53-05

Some Nashville residents have been fighting to stop what they call inhumane conditions in some Tennessee prisons, and they've asked lawmakers to solve the problem.

A group gathered on the steps of the State Capitol to express their concerns about the issue on Monday. They read statements from employees and inmates in CoreCivic facilities. CoreCivic is a private company that operates some Tennessee prisons.

Participants described horrible conditions at the prisons including overcrowding and a lack of medical care for the inmates.  A recent audit by the State Comptroller found facilities run by CoreCivic in Tennessee were understaffed and mismanaged. 

The group expressed concerns about the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, but participants said they felt similar problems exist in all facilities run by CoreCivic. They argued the only solution to the problem is for the state to cut ties with the company.

“They are treating people inhumanely and profiting off people’s bodies,” said Brenda Perez, an organizer of the rally. “There have been many deaths inside those CoreCivic facilities, and we don’t need more.”

Steven Owen, Managing Director of Communications for CoreCivic released a statement:

“As we’ve acknowledged previously, Trousdale Turner Correctional Center has had its challenges, but we’ve worked hard to address them. Whether it’s raising starting wages to attract staff or undertaking targeted efforts to mitigate the influence of security threat groups, we feel we are making progress.  We’ve also worked to make Trousdale a place where inmates can prepare to successfully return to our communities. For example, nearly 700 inmates are enrolled in reentry programming ranging from educational opportunities to group therapy. We provide vocational training in high-demand careers such as masonry and computer programming, which helps people secure jobs once they’re released, and offerings like cognitive behavioral intervention and substance abuse treatment help inmates learn important life skills.  We appreciate the strong oversight we get from our government partners and remain committed to operating safe, secure facilities with high-quality reentry programming."

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Correction said in a statement:

“The Department’s commitment to the safety and security of staff, offenders, and the public remains unwavering.  As mentioned in the management comments in the audit, multiple steps have already been taken to address the findings noted in the report.  We continue to work closely with our government and other partners, and are confident in the progress we have made and the services which are provided.”

On December 12 at 11 a.m., executives from CoreCivic will respond to the claims in the audit during a hearing at the William A. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower. Tennessee lawmakers will also discuss renewing the state’s contract with CoreCivic.