Tag Archives: correction

Prison assaults rise with new definitions

Since Jan. 11, there have been 70 assaults with a weapon against Tennessee correctional officers and 49 assaults that didn’t involve a weapon, reports The Tennessean.

Those 119 assaults put the Tennessee Department of Correction on pace to more than double the number of assaults on staff recorded in 2015, according to figures obtained from the department through a request by The Tennessean.

The seemingly drastic increase comes after Tennessee prison officials changed the definitions of assault on officers and inmates amid continued scrutiny from officers, inmates and the organization the department relies on to inspect its facilities and policies.

…Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals didn’t comment on whether the new data accurately reflect the level of violence in Tennessee prisons.

“The (ACA) report also made a recommendation, and the department reviewed it, implementing a new policy. It’s not appropriate to compare numbers from two different policies,” Donnals said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

…Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has been critical of Schofield and the way the department has handled issues pertaining to safety, scheduling and pay. In a statement Wednesday, he says the new data validate the concerns about violence in the prison system.

“When issues at the Department of Correction first arose last year, our Senate State and Local Corrections Subcommittee conducted exhaustive hearings resulting in important changes like these definition adjustments. This new data reveals that the concerns expressed were, in fact, real,” Ramsey said in an emailed statement.

…Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, also has criticized the department’s previous approach to how it tracks violence and assaults in state prisons. He echoed Ramsey’s statement Wednesday, saying the “spike” in assaults reflected in the new data shows assaults in the past have been “misclassified and underreported.”

TDOC’s ‘Operation Cleanup’ nets 24 arrests in JC

The Tennessee Department of Correction is conducting vehicle searches at probation offices statewide, reports the Johnson City Press. In a search this week at the Johnson City office, 24 persons were arrested.

The intensive search was done in the parking lot of the TDOC District 10 field office, located on Freckles Court in North Johnson City, according to TDOC spokesman Robert Reburn.

“This state-wide operation is named “Operation: Clean Up” and has resulted in the search of more than 900 vehicles to date, with 341 of the searches being conducted yesterday in Johnson City,“ Reburn said. ”Every vehicle that was searched had an offender in it.“

State law and TDOC policy allows the agency to search any inmate, visitor or employee or their vehicles while on state property.

Reburn said the local sweep resulted in 24 arrests on charges including drug possession and felony probation/parole violation. In addition, more than 35 citations were issued on charges including suspended/revoked license and drug paraphernalia.

”This operation illustrates TDOC’s commitment to the community by ensuring that the offenders on community supervision are held accountable for their actions,“ Reburn said.

In addition to TDOC probation and parole officers, including Strike Force and K-9 units that led the operation, other agencies involved in the sweep were officers from the Northeast Correctional Complex, the Johnson City Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Department.

The 24 arrest warrants served included 19 probationer arrests with these charges: one harassment, one manufacturing a controlled substance, two driving on a revoked license, one grand jury indictment, two for failure to pay child support, one simple possession/casual exchange, two failure to appear and nine felony or misdemeanor violation of probation.

There were also four non-probationers arrested on these charges: one failure to appear, two driving on a suspended license and manufacture/delivery/selling a controlled substance, one driving on a revoked license and one grand jury presentment on an unknown charge.

There were also 36 misdemeanor citations issued, 22 of which were given to probationers.

TN Prisons Full; Expansion in the Works

State prisons are packed, the inmates who can’t fit in are filling up local jails, and the system for transitioning people out is losing credibility, reports Andrea Zelinski. But policy makers back on Capitol Hill have bigger appetites to stiffen punishments for criminals than to tackle the troubled corrections system that manages the people lawmakers want thrown in there.
“Although it makes us feel good and it is an absolute necessity to lock people up, we’re losing the battle because we’re continuing to build more jails,” said (Rep.) Tony Shipley, a Kingsport Republican who pushes for tougher sentencing laws. “All we’re doing is perpetuating the problem and kicking the can down the road.”
The state’s 14 prisons are collectively at 98 percent capacity, with an overflow of about 5,000 inmates serving some, if not all, of their time at local jails while they wait for a prison bed to open up, according to the Department of Correction.
Gov. Bill Haslam noted the problem during his State of the State address last week. A recent study found that more than 600 violent crimes are committed per 100,000 people in Tennessee, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The figure is second only to Washington, D.C., with more than 1,200 crimes per 100,000 people, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.
Among other things, a better education system will help chip away at the problem, Haslam said, but in the meantime, he promised more money to the corrections system. His $32.7 billion budget plan released last week includes spending more than $120 million new dollars to house inmates. That would help bring the department’s budget more than $900 million next year.
The governor also wants to spend $30.2 million to expand the not-yet-reopened Bledsoe Correctional Complex — formerly Southeastern Tennessee Regional Correctional Facility — in Pikeville, which will begin accepting some 1,500 inmates this spring. The two-year expansion project would add another 512 beds.
In the meantime, Haslam wants to divvy out nearly $42 million in checks to local jails for housing more state inmates this year than the state expected, plus another $48 million for the inmates who won’t fit next year.

DCS, Parole Problems Tied to Low Pay for Stressful State Jobs

Problems in the Department of Children’s Services and the state parole system have something in common, according to Gail Kerr: Low pay for state employees in key jobs.
Gov. Bill Haslam and the state legislature have to make a choice: Do they keep Tennesseans safe or allow children to die and be sexually assaulted because of stubborn determination to keep government from growing?
…Two key state departments that are charged with keeping children safe share the same problem: They aren’t getting the job done. They have too few employees in stressful jobs making salaries so small that turnover is the norm. Both departments have come under fire in recent weeks for several missteps that endanger the lives of children and adults.
The Department of Children’s Services has struggled to even say how many cases each social worker is handling. Its child-abuse hotline call center is so understaffed that 25 percent of the people who call to report something hang up because they stay on hold too long. The trained social workers who answer those calls hear the worst of the worst, yet the pay is so low that 10 of 65 workers left or transferred over the past year.
A look at the state’s job application website shows there are 41 positions open for DCS case managers right now. Their pay? Between $27,468 and $31,128 a year.
Over in the state Department of Correction, the parole and probation division is in a similar mess.
A recent report shows that, too often, convicted sex offenders are not checked for violations of their supervising rules, including where they are living. Officers failed to visit offenders in their homes in 40 percent of cases and routinely ignored GPS monitor alerts that an offender was where he’s not supposed to be.
In at least one case, an offender was caught living in a home with the child he was convicted of abusing. Every parole officer is supposed to supervise no more than 25 sex offender cases. The average, however, is 40.
The state lists 36 open jobs for probation and parole field supervisors. Their pay range is $26,364 to $29,886.

Savings of $33 Million Claimed Through Change in Parole Practices

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A report on parole practices cites a collaborative effort between the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole and the state Correction Department as an effective way to assess the needs of offenders when resources are limited by budget restraints.
The report released in August noted the focus of the departments’ Joint Offender Management Plan in 2009 was to reduce correctional costs to the state, “particularly through reducing parole and probation revocations.”
To do that, funds were shifted from the Department of Correction to the Board of Probation and Parole to support treatment interventions in the community through a network developed by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.
The overall collaboration saved the state $33 million within its first year, said state officials, who launched the program with the intention of saving taxpayers money, reducing recidivism, preserving expensive prison beds for the most dangerous offenders and making communities safer.
“We were able to use their people instead of going through the time and expense of having to contract service providers in the community ourselves,” parole board spokeswoman Melissa McDonald recently told The Associated Press in reference to the mental health network.

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