Legislators hear criticism of CoreCivic, call for improvement within a year

A legislative committee has voted, in effect, to give the state Department of Correction another year to show improvement after a hearing Tuesday centered on an comptroller’s audit that found multiple problems prisons operated by CoreCivic under contract with the state.

A joint Government Operations Subcommittee had earlier balked at granting approval of continued operations by the Department of Corrections as required periodically under the state’s “sunset” law  – something that normally happens as a matter of routine. After Tuesday’s hearing, the panel voted to extend the department’s life for just one year.

From WPLN:

Inmates, family members and even former employees have publicly called out conditions inside prisons like Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville. The allegations came shortly after it opened last year.

Ashley Nixon was employed as a guard at Trousdale Turner for seven months before resigning. On top of 12 to 16 hour work shifts, she describes a continuous disregard for inmates’ health.

“I witnessed two deaths during my time there of prisoners due to medical neglect,” says Nixon. “Both experiences changed me and both deaths will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

One of those people was a diabetic who often didn’t receive his insulin shots. Nixon says he screamed in pain for days before he died. The second inmate attempted suicide by swallowing dozens of blood pressure pills. According to Nixon, the medical staff didn’t believe him. By the time they reacted, it was too late.

Speaking to lawmakers, Nixon said she heard similar complaints from guards borrowed from other CoreCivic facilities.

“I don’t believe these conditions are unique to Trousdale,” says Nixon. “I came here to beg you to bring an end to the violence and deliberate indifference of this company.”

… Though the head of the TDOC, Commissioner Tony Parker, insists that subsequent inspection of the facilities has shown marked improvement, some lawmakers berated him for failing to levy financial penalties against CoreCivic for the violations outlined in the audit.

Parker confirmed that CoreCivic was asked to pay a $43,000 fine this summer, for two separate violations regarding prison counts, and that there is no plan to seek monetary damages for the staffing violations.

See also the Tennessean’s report, including this quote from Parker:

“We may not have taken action when we should have in some cases,” Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker said after the hearing.

“But, again, going forward, it’s clear that they have a contractual obligation to follow, and the department is committed to ensuring they meet those obligations. If they fail to meet those obligations, we’ll follow the rule in the contract to seek … damages.

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