Tag Archives: corrections

Haslam names veteran TDOC staffer as new commissioner

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of Tony Parker as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of the Correction (TDOC) effective June 19. Parker will replace Derrick Schofield who announced June 1 he is leaving the administration to join GEO Group in Florida as executive vice president for continuum of care.

A 33-year veteran of TDOC, Parker has served five administrations, beginning his career as a correctional officer, working his way up and serving since 2012 as assistant commissioner of prisons, supervising prison operations, security operations and offender management.


“Tony Parker has spent his life dedicated to serving our state through the correctional system. He put himself through school, earning his associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees while being promoted through the ranks of the Department of Correction,” Haslam said. “Tony understands the department and its mission from top to bottom, and I have no doubt he will do an outstanding job leading it.” Continue reading

Embattled Correction Commissioner Schofield resigns

News release from the governor’s office
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield will leave the administration at the end of June to join GEO Group in Florida as executive vice president for continuum of care.

Schofield, 55, has led the department since the start of the administration in 2011 and has been an integral voice in shaping the governor’s public safety agenda during the administration. He has served on the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet since its inception, most recently helping to shape the Public Safety Act of 2016, which makes smarter use of prison bed space, among other important safety objectives.

“Tennessee has been extremely fortunate to have someone of Derrick’s caliber as commissioner of the Department of Correction,” Haslam said. “I am personally grateful for Derrick’s professional approach and personal integrity as he worked to reduce recidivism, improve offender outcomes and assure a safe and secure environment in our corrections system.”

The state’s corrections system is comprised of 14 prisons, collectively housing approximately 21,000 offenders. The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) has more than 6,500 employees and supervises 79,000 offenders on probation, parole or community corrections.

“I am thankful for the ability to serve under Gov. Haslam’s leadership and am proud of the work that we accomplished together,” Schofield said. “I am especially proud of the hard work the more than six thousand correctional professionals have put into making the Tennessee Department of Correction one of the best in the nation.”

The mission of the department was expanded in 2012 to include providing effective community supervision of adult offenders, transferring certain functions from the Board of Parole to the department.

Before becoming TDOC commissioner, Schofield was an assistant commissioner of Corrections in Georgia. A native Georgian, he spent eight years with the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of Captain, and has a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbus State University.

Schofield’s last day will be June 20.

UPDATE/Note: In an unusual move, the governor’s office, after sending out the above, also sent media the governor’s response to a reporter’s question later in the day. The question was whether Schofield’s departure had anything to do with the criticism he has faced. The answer:

“Absolutely not. I want to be as clear as I can: Derrick Schofield has been a great commissioner of correction. He got a wonderful job offer. I begged him to stay. It’s a really good offer that he thinks is the right thing for him. But I couldn’t be more grateful for the work he’s done here, and I will miss him.”

House sub kills bill to change prison work schedules

Despite calls from correctional officers to abandon a controversial 28-day work schedule, a House subcommittee has killed a proposal to change the Department of Correction, reports The Tennessean.

A bill (HB1957), sponsored by Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, seeks to implement an idea that was included in a review of the state’s prison system that the American Correctional Association performed last year. The review came after The Tennessean and other media published reports of safety and staffing issues in Tennessee prisons.

The ACA review included a recommendation that the state Department of Correction replace the currently used 28-day schedule with a traditional 40-hour workweek, suggesting officers work six days and then take three days off.

Opponents, which include the Tennessee State Employees Association, say the 28-day schedule unfairly delays overtime payments, which ends up decreasing the amount of money an officer takes home. They also argue the current system is leading to more vacancies, which is forcing the remaining officers to work more and creating unduly unsafe environments.

…Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, took issue with the bill, saying that the department came up with the current schedule after a two-year review.

“I have a real problem sometimes with my role as a legislator on how far do I stick my nose into (the) state’s business,” he said.

Retention has become such an issue that every prison in the state has had to keep a retention officer on staff, Windle explained. “We’ve never had to do that before,” he said.

But House state government subcommittee chairman Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, said Windle’s legislation circumvents the department’s ability to make its own rules.

“I feel like as Representative Hulsey mentioned that it may be a little premature for us to move forward on something like this,” he said.

TDOC making trick-or-treat check on sex offenders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Correction says it has launched Operation Blackout, an annual initiative to protect trick-or-treaters from registered sex offenders.

A TDOC statement says probation parole officers have teamed up with local police to conduct random visits and compliance checks across the state to make sure that sex offenders are following strict guidelines for the Halloween season.

During the first night, officers checked on 300 sex offenders, which resulted in one arrest, one citation, and four violations. TDOC says it plans to check on 3,500 sex offenders statewide through Oct. 31.

Change in state probation supervision praised by prof after being panned by DA, state rep

East Tennessee State University Assistant Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Jennifer Pealer is applauding the Tennessee Department of Correction’s new supervision standards, which include less supervision for low-risk offenders who are on probation and parole, reports Johnson City’s WJHL-TV.

“When I heard about it I was actually very happy that DOC has implemented this type of policy, because it’s actually bringing Tennessee aligned with what the research shows we should be doing and this research has been around for many years,” she said.

The major policy shift now dedicates most of the state’s resources to supervising higher risk offenders, while giving so-called lower risk offenders, including some convicted first and second-degree murderers in our area, a longer leash. TDOC determines an offender’s risk using an assessment program.

Although some fear the change increases the risk to the public, Dr. Pealer, who specializes in corrections, believes the new policy is best for public safety.

“It’s what the research calls the risk principal,” Dr. Pealer said. “Research is pretty clear that the severity of crime is not that big of indicator about whether they’re going to go out and re-offend. Most murderers do not go out and re-offend. The beauty of the Tennessee Department of Correction’s policy is that they are not basing it on their gut.”
Dr. Pealer has read much of the same research that prompted TDOC to make the significant change in supervision standards. Instead of checking in regularly to a probation office, she says lower risk offenders should be allowed to work and surround themselves with others who are actually productive members of society.

…Since our stories first aired earlier this week, TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield has reached out directly to Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus and Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-District 1). Both men tell us they received a letter from the commissioner giving them the chance to clear up any of their concerns about the new policy directly with him.

On Friday, News Channel 11 confirmed that Governor Bill Haslam’s office was notified of the changes by TDOC.

DA Staubus and Rep. Lundberg previously said they were outraged by the new standards and told us TDOC implemented the change back in August without asking for their input or even giving them a heads up it was on the way. TDOC’s deputy commissioners previously admitted the agency could have done a better job of letting “key players” know the change was in the works.

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.

Nine inmates sent back to prison after release by ‘miscalculation’

Nine inmates who successfully graduated from a re-entry program from a state prison and were allowed to start new lives on the outside are now back in prison because of a state error, reports WSMV TV.

Among the inmates is Darryl Harmon, who spent six months completing the program at the Turney Center Industrial Complex.

Harmon was released from prison after convictions of aggravated robbery, met with his probation officer and spent the last two weeks reconnecting with his young daughter, visiting his siblings and starting work in landscaping.

But on July 3, while sitting on his mother’s back porch, state probation and parole officers arrived.

“My son told me there were nine cars here. About 30 people here. Had the house surrounded,” said Donna Harmon, Darryl’s mother.

Darryl Harmon was then taken back into custody and was told a state error meant he had to return to prison.

…How did this happen?

“It was a misinterpretation. A miscalculation, if you will, of sentencing information based on the eligibility criteria,” said Jason Woodall, TDOC deputy commissioner.

Woodall said the Department of Correction made a mistake in allowing the nine men, including Darryl Harmon, to even be allowed to enter the re-entry program in the first place.

Once those men successfully completed the program and were allowed to leave on probation, the state realized the mistake and returned them to prison.

…”the point to keep in mind, these offenders will be back in society soon. I think what the families want, what the offenders want, what the community wants, is a better prepared offender to live and function in society and be successful,” Woodall said. “I understand what you’re saying, that there were emotions involved. And to that, I regret that. And I would say we have taken steps to prevent that from happening again.”

TN prison sentencing policies to be reviewed by outside group

News release from state Department of Safety:
NASHVILLE – Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons, chairman of the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet, today announced that the group is partnering with the Vera Institute of Justice to review sentencing and correction policies and practices with an aim towards improving public safety for all Tennesseans.

Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield, a member of the subcabinet, has led the charge in putting this partnership together, and Vera’s technical assistance will come at no cost to Tennessee taxpayers.

The review will build on the Public Safety Subcabinet’s work over the last three years including the state’s public safety action plan that was introduced in January 2012.

“We are fortunate that Vera has chosen Tennessee as a state to invest its resources and expertise,” Gibbons said. “It says a lot about the things we’re doing right in Tennessee, and we want to build on that progress to continue our work to improve public safety for our citizens. Commissioner Schofield deserves credit for leading the way to make this partnership a reality.”

“The Department of Correction is following an ambitious path to significantly improve how offenders are supervised,” Schofield said. “We are actively engaged in adopting best practices that are suitable and sustainable in Tennessee because we know that a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to public safety will not work.”
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TN to use single drug in future executions

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Correction said Friday that it’s switching from a three-drug method to execute death row inmates to a single-drug method.

The new protocol now calls for using the sedative pentobarbital only to put an inmate to death, according to the news release issued by spokeswoman Dorinda Carter.

Tennessee’s supply of sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in lethal injections, was turned over to the federal government in 2011 over questions about how it was imported. The short supply of sodium thiopental in the U.S. has led many states with the death penalty to seek out other drugs.

Arizona, Idaho and Ohio already have carried out executions using pentobarbital, a barbiturate that is most commonly used to euthanize animals and treat seizures.

In addition to the shortage of sodium thiopental, records obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request indicated that Tennessee has also been unable to get pancuronium bromide, a strong muscle relaxant given to the inmate before the final injection of potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

A memo dated February 2012 stated that the pharmaceutical distributor Morris & Dickson informed the state that pancuronium bromide was recalled in May 2010 and will not be reissued.
Continue reading

Report Says 19 Percent of Youths in TN Juvenile Corrections ‘Sexually Victimized’

A recent U.S. Department of Justice report says that youths in Tennessee juvenile correction facilities are at greater risk of being sexually victimized than the national average, reports the Tennessean.
The report estimates that 9.5 percent of youths in state and private correctional facilities across the nation, or just more than 1,700 youths, were sexually victimized in 2011-12. The rate for Tennessee facilities was 13 percent.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics compiled the numbers through surveys of 326 facilities across the country. Nearly 8,700 youths responded to the sexual victimization part of the survey.
The report defines sexual victimization as forced sexual activity between youths and all sexual activity involving youths and staff.
Of the four Tennessee facilities surveyed, John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville had the highest rate of estimated sexual victimization, at 19.5 percent, up from 16.3 percent in 2010, when the bureau published a similar study. Three years ago, the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center had one of the highest rates in the county, at 26 percent.