prisons

Haslam to consider clemency for reported sex abuse victim who committed murder at age 16

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says his administration has begun gathering information on Cyntoia Brown, a Nashville woman whose murder conviction has become a cause célèbre, reports WPLN. But a decision on whether to grant her clemency is unlikely to come until the last days of his term in January, 2019, in keeping with a tradition established by predecessors.

Brown was convicted more than a decade ago for the murder of a Nashville man. Advocates for Brown say she was caught up in a so-called “sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.” At 16 years old at the time of the crime, Brown says she was the victim of sex trafficking.

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State to pay $80K to settle lawsuit over religious teaching in prison inmate program

TRICOR, the state program providing jobs for prison inmates, will pay $80,994 to settle a federal court lawsuit that contended inappropriate religious teaching was included in instructional materials, reports WKRN TV.

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Judge gets reprimand for granting jail sentence reductions for vasectomies

White County General Sessions Jud Sam Benningfied has been reprimanded by the state Board of Judicial Conduct for offering jail inmates 30 days off their time behind bars for getting vasectomies or birth control implants, reports The Tennessean.

Bennifield’s order authorizing sentence reductions for long-term birth control measures was issued in May and rescinded in July after protests. It has led to at least two lawsuits against the judge and the White County sheriff, who oversees the jail in Sparta.

A letter posted on the Board’s public website (HERE) says the judge’s actions threatened confidence in the judicial system.

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TN auditors find troubles at CoreCivic prisons

A state comptroller’s audit has found several problems at private prisons operated for the state of Tennessee by CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America. Short staffing at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, the newest and largest prison in the state, is a major focus, but there’s also criticism of operations at Whiteville Correctional Facility and Hardeman County Correctional Center.

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County, company settle probation lawsuit for $14.3M

Rutherford County and Providence Community Corrections have settled a class action lawsuit over private probation practices for $14.3 million, reports the Murfreesboro Post. The settlement will compensate nearly 30,000 Tennesseans for fees the company allegedly extorted from probationers.

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TV station gets bed bugs from prison (via mail)

Two inmates at South Central Correctional Center, a prison in Wayne County operated by CoreCivic under contract with the state of Tennessee, mailed WSMV TV a letter containing dead bed bugs said to be collected inside the facility.

From the Nashville station’s report:

News 4 took them to Belmont University professor and entomologist Dr. Steven Murphree.

“I can tell it’s a bed bug. I just haven’t seen one that is so large like that,” Murphree said.

The letters sent to our newsroom said the bed bug problem in the mental health building has been going on for a year. They say while employees do spray once in a while, the spray doesn’t work.

…The inmates say when a former staff member alerted CoreCivic to the issue, they said he was unqualified to identify a bed bug.

…Jonathan Burns, the spokesperson for CoreCivic sent News 4 this statement:

The health and safety of our employees and the individuals entrusted to our care is our top priority. CoreCivic received a report concerning the possible presence of bedbugs at South Central Correctional Center in August 2017. Facility leadership moved aggressively to address the issue.

Within 24 hours of receiving the initial report, the facility was professionally inspected and treated for bedbugs.

TN sheriff gets prison time for having sex with women jail inmates, beating male inmate

Former Fentress County Sheriff Charles S. “Chucky” Cravens was sentenced to two years, nine months in prison Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger of Nashville, reports The Tennessean.

I do take responsibility for my actions,” he told the judge, hands folded behind his Wranglers. “What I done, I done it myself.”

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Lawsuit filed over White County jail inmate birth control program

From an Associated Press report:

A Tennessee sheriff and judge violated the constitutional rights of jail inmates by promising to reduce their sentences if they underwent birth control procedures, an ex-inmate says in a federal lawsuit.

Christel Ward was among the misdemeanor-level White County Jail inmates who took the deal, according to the lawsuit. She said Thursday that she still has the unwanted birth control device in her arm that authorities injected in her.

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Scott County jail faces three lawsuits over medical care of inmates

Three federal court lawsuits have been filed accusing the Scott County jail of failing to provide proper medical care for inmates, reports the News Sentinel.

One contends the jail staff and private medical providers ignored “cries for help” from an inmate who wound up dead of a staph infection; another says a woman was left to languish without care while suffering hundreds of seizures; a third charges that a case of tuberculosis was ignored. All three alleged incidents came after the jail failed  a 2016 jail inspection by the Tennessee Corrections Institute in 2016 — and after the Institute declared problems with medical treatments had been corrected.

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Judge ends offer of reduced jail time for vasectomies, blames state Dept. of Health

White County General Sessions Court Judge Sam Benningfield has rescinded his controversial offer to reduce the jail sentences of male prisoners who get vasectomies and female prisoners who get contraceptive implants, reports WTVF-TV. He blames the state health officials for the decision.

The contraceptive procedures were offered free by the state Department of Health when the judge in May issued an order authorizing 30-days off jail times for inmates who undergo the procedures. He issued a new order rescinding the offer for new inmates, saying officials have advised him the department “will no longer offer free vasectomies… and will not provide the free Nexplanon implant” to White County inmates who get a sentence reduction.

The judge said in his order that those who had already signed up – at least 32 women and 38 men, according to an earlier report — will still get the 30-day sentence reduction without going through the procedures. The order says these inmates have “demonstrated to the court their desire to improve their situations and take serious and considered steps toward their rehabilitation.”

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