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Tenn. Prison for Women to be renamed in honor of murdered TDOC administrator, Debra Johnson

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Posted at 3:41 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 21:10:52-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Bill Lee announced his signing of an executive order, which honors Debra Johnson, a Tennessee Department of Corrections administrator killed by an escaped inmate last year.

Executive Order 56 changes the name of the Tennessee Prison For Women to the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center for Women.

The 64-year-old began her career in the Department of Correction in 1981 as a correctional officer. She spent 38 years with the department rising up in the ranks. She served as sergeant, deputy warden, warden and most recently was in charge of the West Region of Tennessee as a Correctional Administrator.

“Debra loved being a part of the Tennessee Prison for Women but more importantly she loved the staff and cared deeply about improving the lives of incarcerated women,” TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker said. “Governor Lee’s executive order is a fitting tribute to a brave and dedicated public servant.”

Inmate Curtis Watson was indicted on a 15-count charge in Johnson's death. Watson was charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated burglary, and aggravated sexual battery. He allegedly killed Johnson before escaping the West Tennessee State Penitentiary and leading authorities on a four-day manhunt.

Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of her death.

“CA Johnson believed in second chances and maintained a focus on the rehabilitation of inmates,” Commissioner Parker said. “She worked hard to prepare inmates to return home by encouraging them to participate in educational, vocational and treatment programs that would help them succeed in their communities.”

TDOC will pause for a moment of silence at 8:10 a.m. Friday.