Haslam defends private prison operations

The federal government may be moving to end operation of its prisons by private companies and the Tennessee State Employees Association may be calling for the same at the state level, but Nashville Post Politics reports that Gov. Bill Haslam thinks Tennessee’s four private prisons are working just fine.

“[The feds] make the decisions that they would,” Haslam said when asked if Tennessee should phase out private prisons. “I think if you talk to Tony Parker, who’s our commissioner of corrections, he would say we provide supervision and oversight to private prisons just like we do to ours.”

All four state private prisons, along with Davidson and Hamilton Counties’ jails, are operated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

…When asked if he had read Shane Bauer’s lengthy investigative story for Mother Jones, in which he went undercover as prison guard in a CCA prison in Louisiana, exposing appalling conditions for prisoners and guards alike, Haslam shook his head.

“No, but my experience with Mother Jones is that they’re not exactly a level playing field, in terms of private interest and private enterprise. But I would say this, our corrections folks are confident they provide the same level of oversight and the same accountability to private operators as we do in our own facilities,” Haslam said.

Also, in response to a previous post (HERE) of a TSEA press release, Department of Correction Public Information Officer Alison Randgaard has sent via email the following departmental statement and Parker comment:

Statement: The Tennessee Department of Correction works closely with CCA and currently has no plans to end our contract with CCA or any of the counties that contract with CCA.

Quote from Commissioner Tony Parker: “While I have no direct knowledge of the specific circumstances surrounding the Deputy Attorney General’s directive, this decision does not unilaterally affect prison operations for Tennessee. Currently the Department of Correction is satisfied that CCA managed facilities are being operated in accordance with state policies and Correctional Standards. TDOC has many policies and procedures in place for monitoring and inspection of all of our prisons, including the privately managed facilities. The CCA managed facilities are held to the same high-standards as all of the TDOC managed facilities.”