prisons

TDEC fines TDOC for pollution by two prisons

In a case of one state agency penalizing another, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation recently fined the Tennessee Department of Correction for stream pollution near the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Lauderdale County and the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex north of Chattanooga, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Potential fines in the TDEC order total $457,806. That can be reduced or eliminated the TDOC restores the streams – the Hatchie River in West Tennessee and a tributary of the Caney Fork River in Bledsoe County — and wetlands damaged by the pollution and outlines other environmental-restoration projects.

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State sells 119-acre Nashville prison site for $12.1M

Rogers Group Inc. has paid the State of Tennessee $12.1 million for the 119-acre vacant former Charles Bass Correctional Complex property in West Nashville, reports The Tennessean.

The Nashville-based provider of crushed stone, sand and gravel, asphalt and highway construction declined to comment on its purchase of for the site, which sits across Richland Creek from its REOStone quarry on Robertson Avenue.

…A new quarry is among possibilities for the property, which could also be used for offices and warehouse, maintenance and/or river transportation-related activities.

Earlier this year, Rogers Group made the highest offer of $12.5 million among six suitors for the site at 7177 Cockrill Bend Blvd. The 119-acre location includes the shuttered 162,700-square-foot former medium-security correctional complex.

The property borders the Cumberland River and a pair of industrial buildings. It is a half-mile from the John C. Tune Airport in an area with many warehouses and light industrial businesses.

Sheriff pleads guilty to sex with women inmates, beating man

Fentress County Sheriff Chucky Cravens has pleaded guilty to bribing female inmates for sex and beating a male prisoner, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

Cravens, 47, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday after an investigation that began barely more than a week before. The official charges were three counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. The charges stem back from July to as recently as March 1.

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Democrats denounce scuttling of prison oversight bill; Republicans denounce Democrats

The Sunday assault on guards at the state’s Turney Center shows the need for legislative oversight of the prison system, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart declared at a news conference Monday.

Bills to re-establish a Corrections Oversight Committee, abolished in 2011, have all died quietly this session. One with Republican sponsors (SB1145) was sent to “general sub” in the Senate Health Committee Monday, dead for the year since the panel is now closed. That measure would also have recreated an abolished oversight committees on TennCare and childrens’ services.

Stewart called the failure to re-establish a corrections oversight panel “totally ridiculous,” reports The Tennessean.

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An update on officers stabbed in prison uprising

News release from Department of Corrections

NASHVILLE – One of the three officers assaulted during (Sunday’s) disturbance at Turney Center Industrial Complex has been released from the hospital.  Officer Lester Ball was treated and released overnight.  Officers Jesse Shockley and Paul Nielsen remain hospitalized in stable condition.

The Department continues to work closely with other law enforcement agencies including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which we have asked to conduct its own independent investigation into the events.

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Three guards injured in TN prison inmate uprising

Three corrections officers were injured, including one held hostage for about three hours, in a Sunday inmate uprising at Turney Center state prison, located about 60 miles west of Nashville in Hickman County.

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Three state correction officer suicides reported in one month

Three officers with the Tennessee Department of Correction have died by suicide in just this past month, according to an internal memo sent to employees and reported by the Nashville Scene.

 

The department is not releasing the names of the individuals “out of respect and deference to the families,” according to TDOC spokesperson Alison Randgaard.

“We are devastated by the loss of our colleagues which is reflected in Commissioner [Tony] Parker’s letter to staff,” Randgaard wrote in an email.

…In the memo sent Wednesday from Parker, he urges employees to take an account of their personal stress level. The department has struggled in recent years to fully staff its prisons, causing safety issues. It faced an exodus of correctional officers two years ago after drastically changing scheduling.

ACLU wins first round in TN juvenile jailing lawsuit

News release from American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A federal judge today granted a preliminary injunction in an American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee lawsuit challenging the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. The injunction prohibits the county from subjecting children in its detention facility to solitary confinement as punishment while the case proceeds.

The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of a 15-year-old pretrial detainee who was held in solitary confinement for five days at the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility. It is now a class action seeking to end the practice of solitary confinement for all juveniles in the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility.

“Being locked in a concrete cell alone for 23 hours a day with nothing but a mattress and a toilet can create lasting damage for a young person’s psychological, social and physical development,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Mark J. Downton of Downton Clark, PLLC. “We are pleased that the court has recognized that subjecting young people to solitary confinement for disciplinary purposes is inhumane.”

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DCS turning over Mountain View juvenile penal center to private operator

The state Department of Children’s Services is moving to convert part of the Mountain View Youth penal center into a privately run treatment center, reports WBIR-TV.

Rob Johnson, DCS spokesman, stressed Thursday the Dandridge center itself will remain open. But the state argues that in its traditional role as a “secure” center for hardened juvenile offenders Mountain View is now underused. DCS announced the development Thursday afternoon.

The idea is to install a 60-bed “Level Three” center that would offer youth in custody more chances to learn job skills and get treatment. It would be “staff secure,” but would allow juveniles in custody more freedom to move around – without the perimeter razor wire that’s now in place.

Mountain View can accommodate 144 people; there are 39 there now, according to DCS.

“We have a really big need for these Level 3 beds,” Johnson said.

Mountain View is one of three such centers in Tennessee with elevated security designed to house serious offenders. In recent years, it’s been the site of escape attempts and assaults on staff members.

The trend is to de-emphasize the traditional state correction center and emphasize , when possible, more treatment-based options for juvenile offenders, according to Johnson.

Mountain View would keep a “hardware secure” area with up to 24 beds, the razor wire fence and steel doors. It would also be run by the private operator, which would lease Mountain View from the state.

…Johnson said DCS already contracts with almost 30 firms that provide services so it wouldn’t necessarily have to seek formal proposals in a bidding system for Mountain View.

Making the change, according to DCS, would free up $3 million for “prevention services” that would go to help reach young people to ensure they don’t end up in the juvenile justice system.

Note: The DCS press release is below.

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Obama commutes sentences of five Tennesseans; grants pardons to two

President Barack Obama commuted the sentences Monday of five Tennesseans jailed on drug-related charges and pardoned two others convicted of non-violent crimes, reports Michael Collins.

In all, Obama commuted the sentences of 153 people across the country, including Rodney Bates of Milan, Amilcar Butler of Nashville, Joseph Lee Gulledge Jr. of Chattanooga, Kari Nicole Parks of Bristol and Timothy Orlando Rainey of Nashville.

Seventy-eight others received presidential pardons, including Kenneth Shannon Meadows of Celina and Allen Thompson Sherwood of Ooltewah.

The White House press release is HERE. Below is a cut-and-paste of information provided therein on each of the Tennesseans.

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