The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) has emerged as a model in the nation for its management practices and cost-saving measures since becoming one of the first correctional systems in the country to be fully accredited in 1994. Since that time, each component of the system has been re-accredited in a three-year cycle by the American Correctional Association.
The department's mission has always been to operate safe and secure prisons to enhance public safety in Tennessee through incarceration and rehabilitation of felony offenders. The mission was expanded in 2012 to include providing effective community supervision of adult offenders to ensure public safety based upon the transfer of probation and parole supervision and community correction grant program functions from the Board of Parole (BOP) to the TDOC. This transition is critical to the seamless supervision of felons in Tennessee, whether they are on probation, incarcerated in prison, on parole, or under the supervision of one of the community corrections agencies. The department is working to ensure seamless supervision of offenders from the minute they enter the state system through their return to the community and the eventual end of their sentence.
The department manages and operates 10 adult prisons, contracts with a private prison management company for the operation of one prison, and contracts with several counties for the operation of three other prisons, collectively housing some 21,000 offenders. The TDOC also supervises some 79,000 offenders on probation, parole or community corrections. The community supervision unit consists of 17 districts and 45 probation/parole offices. The department has more than 6,500 employees. The Tennessee Correction Academy in Tullahoma is the department's training facility.
Like other corrections departments nationwide, Tennessee's most pressing challenge today is population growth. The agency has developed strategies that have been shown to reduce populations including the expansion of regional drug court programs, residential and community-based treatment and diversion programs, sentencing reforms, and contracting with counties for bed space. To address the issue of escalating health care costs, the Office of Clinical Services has secured contractual agreements for medical as well as mental health and substance use treatment. These contractors has assisted the department with implementation of new and innovative methods to improve the quality of care and cost containment through an interdisciplinary approach.
The Department of Correction works toward becoming the best correctional agency in the nation by adhering to its mission to operate safe and secure prisons and provide effective community supervision in order to enhance public safety. Through new initiatives, the agency is able to further its goal of holding offenders accountable, improving offender outcomes, and reducing recidivism. In 2012-2013, the department intensified probation/parole home visits, opened the Morgan County Drug Court, implemented an automated collection system to accept supervision fees, established the Young Adult Offender Cognitive Behavioral Program, launched "Operation Blackout" to protect children by targeting sex offender residences on Halloween, and partnered with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency to create a housing initiative for offenders leaving prison.
TDOC is committed to providing quality services to victims of crime. The department is legally mandated to keep victims, family members of victims, and interested parties informed of offender hearing dates, release dates, escapes, and certain movements. The Victims Offender Information Caller Emissary (VOICE) allows registered victims and/or their immediate family members access to the information. Since it's inception in 1996, VOICE has served 11,000 registered victims and their immediate family members. In 2013, more than 8,500 registered to use VOICE.
In 2013, the department established the Office of Reentry, which is responsible for directing complex multi-disciplinary initiatives to improve offender outcomes, reduce recidivism and enhance public safety. All initiatives start and begin with the goal of providing a seamless system of care for successful reentry.
The department continues to be committed to ways to operate its prisons in an efficient and effective manner while maintaining the safety of the public, its employees and the offenders in its custody.