Au­dit finds prob­lems at pri­vate pris­ons

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OBITUARIES - BY JONATHAN MATTISE

NASHVILLE — The na­tion’s largest pri­vate prison provider has been op­er­at­ing some pris­ons in Ten­nessee with­out enough cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers, and much of the staffing in­for­ma­tion needed to mon­i­tor what’s hap­pen­ing be­hind bars is rid­dled with er­rors or hasn’t been shared with the state, ac­cord­ing to an au­dit re­leased Tues­day.

The state comp­trol­ler’s au­dit shows that prob­lems have per­sisted at Ten­nessee’s largest prison, the nearly 2-year-old Trous­dale Turner Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter run by CoreCivic, for­merly known as Cor­rec­tions Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­ica.

In a sam­ple of three days a month be­tween Oc­to­ber 2016 and June 2017, au­di­tors found Trous­dale and Whiteville Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity were con­sis­tently staffed by fewer than the num­ber of cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers the com­pany agreed to pro­vide.

Mean­while, the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion has re­duced the mon­i­tor­ing of con­tract com­pli­ance at Trous­dale, which could in­crease the risk of vi­o­lence be­hind bars, the au­dit states.

The au­dit says 44 crit­i­cal job posts at the ap­prox­i­mately 2,500-in­mate Trous­dale fa­cil­ity were un­staffed on three dif­fer­ent days in three months. Still more un­filled crit­i­cal posts might have been found, the au­dit states, if Trous­dale had turned over more than only about half of the signed staffing ros­ters re­quested by the state.

Ad­di­tion­ally, staffing re­ports pro­vided by Trous­dale and Harde­man County Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter con­tained er­rors so se­ri­ous that their in­for­ma­tion on hires, ter­mi­na­tions and va­can­cies may not be re­li­able, the au­dit states.

“Trous­dale Turner Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter man­age­ment’s con­tin­ued non­com­pli­ance with con­tract re­quire­ments and depart­ment poli­cies chal­lenges the depart­ment’s abil­ity to ef­fec­tively mon­i­tor the pri­vate prison,” the au­dit states.

When au­di­tors were on­site at the medium-se­cu­rity prison, Trous­dale was fac­ing staffing chal­lenges as it trans­ferred about 40 in­mates per day in and out of the fa­cil­ity to re­duce the per­cent­age of its gang-af­fil­i­ated in­mates.

The au­dit also says in­sta­bil­ity in lead­er­ship could be a prob­lem at the prison, which is on its third war­den in two years.

The re­port drew a sharp re­buke from state Demo­cratic law­mak­ers and the Ten­nessee State Em­ploy­ees As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents state work­ers em­ployed in Ten­nessee’s staterun, but not pri­vately run, pris­ons. The or­ga­ni­za­tion cited the au­dit Tues­day as a rea­son why the state should end its con­tract with CoreCivic.

State House Demo­cratic Cau­cus Chair­man Mike Ste­wart of Nashville said he will vote this week against reau­tho­riz­ing the state Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion, push­ing in­stead for a broad in­quiry into the pri­vate pris­ons’ woes and the state’s over­sight. The vote would be sym­bolic, since Repub­li­cans hold leg­isla­tive su­per­ma­jori­ties in Ten­nessee.

“Clearly, the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion has not been do­ing its job su­per­vis­ing this con­trac­tor, and we have to have a sep­a­rate, in­de­pen­dent agency come in and find these prob­lems,” Ste­wart said.

In spring 2016, just a few months af­ter Trous­dale opened, the fa­cil­ity tem­po­rar­ily halted ad­mis­sions to the prison, leav­ing it about two-thirds full. Guards were not count­ing in­mates cor­rectly, weren’t in con­trol of the hous­ing units and were putting in­mates in soli­tary con­fine­ment for no doc­u­mented rea­son, ac­cord­ing to state records.

In May of this year, the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion fined CoreCivic $43,750 for breach of con­tract over prob­lems count­ing in­mates at Trous­dale, but the penalty let­ter did not cite the staffing is­sues.

CoreCivic spokes­woman Amanda Gilchrist said the com­pany ac­knowl­edges there were prob­lems bring­ing Trous­dale “up to full speed” af­ter its open­ing, but cited im­prove­ments in pay, in­clud­ing a start­ing salary of more than $16 per hour and sign­ing bonuses and relocation bonuses as im­prove­ments. The hourly rate for Trous­dale cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers was $11.75 in 2015, the comp­trol­ler’s au­dit states.

Gilchrist also said the com­pany is en­cour­aged by ini­tial feed­back from a sep­a­rate fol­low-up au­dit done re­cently by the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion. “We’ve worked hard to ad­dress the chal­lenges we’ve faced, and while we still have work to do, we are mak­ing progress,” she said.

The Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion largely con­curred with the au­dit’s find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions, but con­tends that staffing re­quire­ments should be based on the num­ber of work­ers per in­mate pop­u­la­tion, not per shift at a prison.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.