A board composed of three state officials has upheld the Department of Correction’s award of a $241 million contract to a company that employs Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield’s wife, though its bid was more than $15 million higher than a competitor.
The decision of the state Procurement Office’s “protests board” was announced to members of the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, some of whom have separately raised questions about the contract for providing medical services to inmates in the state prison system.
But because of what Chairman Bill Ketron described as “a squirrley situation,” no questions were asked at the panel’s meetings this week and the committee instead approved a temporary extension of the current contract, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this month.
The panel also put off inquiries into two other state contracts that Ketron said have at least the appearance of a “common thread” in that they were awarded to companies that have some connection to government insiders.
After reports last week that a convicted rapist who killed his wife was supposed to be on lifetime supervision, state corrections authorities have named a courts liaison to make sure such monitoring actually happens.
From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press: The liaison will work with judges and courts across the states to provide appropriate supervision for offenders, Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said in a June 3 letter to department employees.
The liaison’s job will be “to lead education and implementation of our justice reinvestment initiative,” the letter stated. It described “justice reinvestment” as “our ongoing effort to ensure we do our part to manage the offender population through evidence-based practices and community alternatives.”
Mickie Daughtery, program director of the Davidson County Community Corrections Program, will fill the position June 17, the letter states.
— Terry Releford served most of a 17-year sentence on violent rape and assault charges before his release in 2012. Authorities knew he was mentally ill, and though state law said he should have been supervised for life by the Department of Correction, there was a paperwork slip-up, the Times Free Press reported last week.
No one was watching on May 19 when Releford, 34, beat his pregnant wife to death at their home near Soddy-Daisy and raped a teen girl before eluding authorities and shooting himself in a North Georgia motel room.
Two companies are battling for a $200 million-plus contract to provide health care to Tennessee’s prison inmates, reports The Tennessean, and one of them employs the state correction commissioner’s wife. One came in almost $16 million cheaper and has a long but controversial history of providing those services. The second, more expensive company has struggled to explain how it has enough experience to do the job. It also happens to employ the wife of the head of the Tennessee Department of Correction.
The second company, called Centurion, won.
Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield’s wife, Latrese, works for the company as an inmate re-entry coordinator in Georgia. But that fact was never disclosed in Centurion’s bid, nor was it mentioned at a protest hearing by the losing bidder last week, whose executives were confused about losing out on a job they had already been doing for more than two years.
Only two companies submitted bids, Centurion and Corizon. Corizon’s bid came in at about $226 million while Centurion came in at about $241 million.
The Department of Correction maintains that there is no conflict and that Derrick Schofield recused himself from having any say in the awarding of the contract.
“We’re confident that the process was appropriate and fair and resulted in the selection of the best-qualified bidder,” said TDOC spokeswoman Dorinda Carter. “Ms. Schofield is not in a position of making decisions regarding the contract and she’s not an executive-level employee.”
Derrick Schofield has disclosed his wife’s employment on ethics disclosures for the past three years. He declined to respond for this story through the agency spokeswoman.
…The losing bidder, Brentwood-based Corizon, had held the $219 million contract since 2010, handling health care services for the state’s prison inmates. The company handles mental health care for Tennessee inmates as well.
But Corizon in recent years has been dogged by accusations of poor inmate health care, particularly after a Kentucky inmate died while under the company’s care….In Tennessee, Corizon also was docked millions in penalties over the past few years for at times not meeting all the standards of the contract.
Even still, the state’s Fiscal Review Committee in November voted to extend its contract an additional six months.
By that time, the state had already put out a request for proposals a new contract that would run through 2015.
Corizon is protesting the contract award, arguing that Centurion doesn’t have the five years of experience the state required in its request for proposals.
Centurion, a company that was formed just last year, is made up of two other companies, Virginia-based MHM Services Inc. and St. Louis-based Centene Corp. While MHM has handled inmate health care services for years, the closest it comes to handling an entire prison system of Tennessee’s size was handling health care services for Florida’s prison system. But it held that contract for only three years.
Despite that possible problem, TDOC evaluators gave Centurion perfect marks when evaluating how it meets the contract’s experience requirements.
Latrese Schofield has been employed by MHM since 2005.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Correction said he has addressed problems found in a performance audit by the state comptroller’s office that showed at least 82 people who parole officers claimed they checked on were actually dead.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Derrick Schofield talked about the audit and how his department was faring since it took responsibility for certain services in the Board of Parole.
The audit released in October found problems with parole checks that had been reported between January 2011 and May 2012.
Schofield said an internal investigation revealed no wrongdoing by staffers but uncovered problems with a faulty data entry process.
He said the department has since developed procedures for identifying and removing deceased offenders from rosters. This includes using databases that collect information on deaths reported in Tennessee and nationally to cross-reference individuals under supervision.
State officials are still looking for a drug to use in Tennessee executions, though no death row inmates are scheduled to die anytime soon, the Tennessean reports. Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the state’s lethal injection protocol is a top priority and he is pursuing alternative drugs. He declined to detail what options he was considering, but other states have turned to an alternative drug used in animal euthanasia.
“I’ve been a little cautious talking about this because some of it turns into litigation,” Schofield said in a recent interview. “I don’t have a time frame, but it’s a matter of urgency for us. We have been pushing and working. I want to assure that we haven’t been sitting on our hands.”
Eighty-four people sit on Tennessee’s death row. Sixty-seven have been there for more than 10 years. Six prisoners have been executed since 1960.
For death penalty opponents, the sudden shortage in 2011 of the anesthetic sodium thiopental has been a godsend.
Five states in recent years decided it was easier and cheaper to do away with their death penalties than to keep them.
“We’re very relieved,” said the Rev. Stacy Rector, with Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
“Unfortunately for us, until we get the (death penalty) statute repealed, it’s always going to be a concern.”
Despite years of audits saying that caseloads have become dangerously high, Tennessee won’t be getting additional parole and probation officers in the next year, reports The Tennessean. The Tennessee Department of Correction on Tuesday gave an $850 million budget pitch to Gov. Bill Haslam as part of the administration’s ongoing budget hearings. The department’s proposed budget would include regular contract cost increases, in addition to more funding for more inmates coming into the system.
State auditors for years have warned that caseloads for officers who supervise released felons have grown untenable, potentially putting the public at risk. But Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the agency, which took control of the state’s parole and probation supervision duties in July, isn’t asking for any additional officers.
“It’s still early to just say we need 100 or we need 200 officers. What we have to look at is what are our processes,” Schofield said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An assistant commissioner in the Department of Correction has resigned after an investigation found parole officers reported making checks on dozens of parolees who had been dead for months or years.
Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said in a letter to lawmakers on Thursday that Gary Tullock, who was in charge of community supervision for the department, turned in his resignation after a state audit released this week found 82 parolees being checked were actually dead. That number has risen to 107 now, Schofield said.
Schofield said lawmakers were incorrectly told two parole officers who falsified records were fired. A review showed they had resigned from state service.
According to The Tennessean, Tullock had worked his way up from a parole officer and been in charge of the program since 2004.
Note: For some background, see TNReport’s account of a legislative hearing and video on Schofield. An excerpt: Assistant Correction Commissioner Gary Tullock said the agency fired two parole officers responsible for much of the faulty reporting on dead offenders, but Schofield said other employees likely contributed to the high number of erroneous reports.
According to the Department of Correction, the state monitors 13,000 offenders on parole and 56,000 people on probation. The state also supervises 7,500 people in community correction, a program that keeps less violent offenders out of prisons.
Overall, that’s 3,175 more offenders under state observation this year than last year, though the number of parole officers has not increased, Tullock said.
However, Schofield said it’s too early to say whether he’ll ask the governor to add to his department’s yearly budget.
“The first thing we say is we’re short-staffed. If you look at and examine how we supervise and how we do things, there’s always opportunities to find resources. If we need those resources, we will present that to the governor,” he told reporters.