State closing Nashville prison, contracting with CCA to house inmates in Trousdale County

Tennessee prison officials are planning to close a state prison in Nashville and start sending some inmates to a new Corrections Corporation of America facility being built in Trousdale County, reports the Chattanooga TFP, though the two moves are said not to be coordinated.

Still, Corrections Commissioner Derrick Schofield acknowledged some of the estimated 660 minimum-security inmates at the state-owned and run Charles B. Bass Correctional Complex could eventually wind up at the new prison in Trousdale County.

“At some point they may transfer to Trousdale,” Schofield said, but quickly noted “that’s not our intent” behind closing the Bass complex.

The state in July signed a contract with Trousdale County, which in turn has contracted with CCA as it builds a new prison there. The Nashville-based, investor-owned company is constructing a $140 million medium-security prison in the county and will own and operate it.

Closing Bass makes economic sense, Schofield said, citing a $92 cost-per-day for each inmate, compared to about $74 a day for other state-run prisons in Nashville.

Besides, the commissioner pointed out, the state’s plan calls for closing Bass by June 30, 2015, provided the Republican-controlled Legislature approves it during lawmakers’ annual legislative session starting in January.

And the CCA-run prison in Trousdale is not expected to open until January 2016, the commissioner said. Some legislative staffers, however, note the June 30 timeline could be pretty tight given the budget isn’t likely to pass until April.

Schofield’s comments came following a public budget presentation before Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in which he outlined plans to close Bass, a 765-bed facility. The department estimates that would save $15.28 million, part of $20.48 million in departmental spending cuts he is recommending.

…Meanwhile, Correction Department officials are requesting $79.99 million in cost increases, including $11 million for the contract signed with Trousdale County in July to house and manage the CCA-owned 2,552-bed new prison.

CCA purchased the property in 2008 with an eye toward building a prison but then-Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen showed little interest it.

The Macon County Times reported in May that local county commissioners approved two major deals. One was with the state in which Trousdale would become the “contracted facilitator” for the prison.

The second was between Trousdale and CCA where the company would own and operate the prison and house state inmates.

That’s a deal similar to two other CCA-run prisons that were approved under Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s administration in the 1990s. Both contracts are with Hardeman County which in turn contracted with CCA.