Sunset Hearing Update
NASHVILLE – This morning the Tennessee Department of Correction had the opportunity to present the Department’s response to a recent audit before the Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations. We are pleased with the members’ decision to re-certify the Department and proud to share the excellent work of the more than 6,500 correctional professionals across the state. With that in mind, we are pleased to share our comments and action steps not only with our legislative partners, but also the citizens of the State of Tennessee.
While some have erroneously characterized this report as “explosive,” this audit showed significant improvement over previous audits. As Commissioner Parker stated during the first hearing in November, the Department has already taken numerous steps to address the audit findings, which are noted in the report. Both Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) and Whiteville Correctional Facility (WCFA) have submitted corrective action plans and have been aggressive with regard to recruitment and retention, including in the area of staff pay. The Department has also implemented additional accountability mechanisms including increased reports from TDOC staff on the ground at CoreCivic-managed facilities and additional audits in order to increase and track overall compliance. Earlier this year, Commissioner Parker ordered additional audits of TTCC, doubling the number of yearly audits for that facility. These audits are in addition to the regular compliance reports which have been implemented and will continue to be generated by TDOC contract monitoring staff on the ground. It is also worth noting that the Department has also taken steps to assess liquidated damages against CoreCivic for repeat findings.
Since the first hearing in November, the Department has also implemented supplemental measures to further increase accountability, including adding additional contract monitoring positions at all CoreCivic-managed facilities and the appointment of a contract monitoring director to create further oversight at the management level. The Department’s compliance division now also compiles additional reports for TDOC executive leadership. A comprehensive review of staffing rosters was also conducted to ensure consistency in compliance and daily rosters at CoreCivic managed facilities are now submitted directly to TDOC contract monitoring staff. The Department’s policy on security staff assignments has also been reviewed and strengthened. Through all of these mechanisms, we have already seen marked improvements.
The non-negotiable mission of the Tennessee Department of Correction is to operate safe and secure prisons and provide effective community supervision in order to enhance public safety. This multi-faceted mission guides all that we do and in order to accomplish it, we constantly evaluate our own practices and welcome scrutiny from our government and community partners. We will continue to work closely with the legislature and external partners and sharing future improvements with the community.