/script>

Woman charged with bringing drugs into Hartsville prison

Trousdale County deputies arrested a woman Sunday afternoon at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center and charged her with delivering contraband into the facility.

Patricia Ann Thornton, 43, of Maynardville, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and introducing contraband into a penal facility.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department

According to the arrest affidavit, CoreCivic officials called the Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department for assistance with Thornton, who was visiting her boyfriend who is an inmate at TTCC.

Thornton reportedly admitted to bringing in marijuana under her clothes and handing the drugs off to her boyfriend during visitation.

CoreCivic employees reportedly searched the inmate and found 1.35 ounces of marijuana on him.

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist issued the following statement:

“When the inmate was caught with contraband during a routine search following visitation, it was immediately reported to local law enforcement (Trousdale County Sheriff’s Office) and our partners at the Tennessee Department of Correction. Facility staff took custody of the contraband and the inmate’s visitor was arrested. CoreCivic has a zero-tolerance policy for the introduction of contraband into our facilities and our actions in this matter reflect that.”

Thronton was booked into the Trousdale County Jail and was released on $6,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in general sessions court on July 12.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Former TTCC inmate indicted for attempted murder

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Office

A former inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center has been indicted on a charge of attempted first-degree murder in the September 2017 stabbing of a guard at the facility.

Skiver Keith Millsaps, 27, was indicted by the Trousdale County grand jury last week. He is charged with stabbing a guard on Sept. 6, 2017, allegedly using a piece of sharpened metal to stab the officer in the neck.

Millsaps has since been transferred out of Trousdale Turner. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence for second-degree murder and aggravated burglary.

Previous reports indicated that Millsaps told investigators he was high on methamphetamine during the attack. Other inmates reportedly intervened to stop the attack.

Millsaps was booked into the Trousdale County Jail on $125,000 bond before being returned to TDOC custody. He made his initial appearance in General Sessions Court on Feb. 20.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

CoreCivic guard charged with smuggling drugs into Hartsville prison

An employee at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week and charged with attempting to introduce contraband into the facility.

Gloria Marie Mathews, 39, of Lebanon, was arrested on Jan. 28 shortly after arriving to work, according to an arrest affidavit that was obtained by The Vidette.

Mathews allegedly went into a bathroom in the prison’s central control area and left a package wrapped in black tape in a trash can.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department

An investigator with the Tennessee Department of Corrections observed both camera footage from the prison and the package itself, which reportedly contained 16 sealed sandwich bags containing what was confirmed to be marijuana after field tests.

The affidavit states that 414.07 grams (approximately nine-tenths of a pound) of marijuana was found in the bags.

Mathews reportedly admitted to obtaining the marijuana from a third party and was paid $500 to bring the drugs into the facility.

CoreCivic Public Affairs Manager Rodney King issued the following statement: “On Jan. 28, 2018, Correctional Officer Gloria Mathews was observed attempting to introduce drugs into Trousdale Turner Correctional Center. Facility staff took custody of the contraband and immediately reported the incident to our partners at the Tennessee Department of Correction.  We are cooperating fully with TDOC OIC’s investigation and the arrested individual’s employment has been terminated.

“CoreCivic has a zero-tolerance policy for the introduction of contraband into our facilities and our actions in this matter reflect that.”

Mathews was booked into the Trousdale County Jail and was released on $2,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Feb. 8 at 9 a.m.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

CoreCivic warden says more guards helping calm down Trousdale Turner

An increased number of full-time correctional officers and improved performance on state audits were highlighted during last Thursday’s meeting of the Prison Oversight Committee.

Russell Washburn, who serves as warden of CoreCivic’s Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, gave commissioners an update on operations at the facility.

“It’s important to see the facility’s continued growth and progress in programs to help reduce the recidivism rate,” Washburn said.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Washburn said TTCC now has 151 full-time correctional officers, up from 123 as of the committee’s last meeting in October. Additionally, Washburn said 17 correctional officers were set to start on Monday of this week and 25 more were in the interview process and could start by the end of the month.

“If we get those 17 and 25, we’ll have 193 and that will allow us to cut back on TDY (temporary staff on loan from other facilities),” Washburn said.

CoreCivic has used TDY staffers almost continuously since the prison opened in January 2016 because of a shortage of staff.

Washburn also said the medical department was fully staffed – another area the facility has struggled in previously.

“Every category we track – violent incidents or incidents as a whole – we see a significant reduction during 2018. That’s huge for the facility and is due mostly to filling vacant positions and increased competency of the staff.”

Added housing in the Hartsville/Trousdale County area is also making it easier to attract staff, the warden said. A group of apartment units have been built off of Rogers Street and CoreCivic has contracted to fill most of those.

“It’s also helping our number of county residents employed; an area we’ve struggled in,” Washburn said.

The warden said TTCC had passed audits from the American Correctional Association and Tennessee Department of Corrections with 98.6 and 95 percent ratings, respectively. Poor audit results in 2017 led to hearings before the state legislature in which CoreCivic and TTCC were heavily criticized by legislators.

The prison is also set to receive accreditation from the ACA, Washburn said.

Washburn did note an increased amount of people attempting to sneak up from outside the prison to toss contraband over the fence. TTCC now has a drone detection system – giving protection against another method that can be used to introduce contraband.

“That gives us an opportunity to lock the facility down and start doing searches,” Washburn said. “We haven’t had an issue with throwers in the past, so that tells me we’re doing a good job of securing other ways of getting contraband in.”

Washburn said the Sheriff’s Department has also been doing more patrolling of the area to provide an additional security presence.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Inmate found hanging in cell at Trousdale Turner prison

An inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was found dead Thursday evening in what is believed to be a suicide.

Sources told The Vidette the inmate was found hanging in his cell. Trousdale County EMS responded to the scene.

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist issued a statement.

“At approximately 9:30 p.m. CST Thursday, Dec. 6, officers at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center found an inmate unresponsive in his cell from an apparent suicide attempt. A medical code was called, responding staff began performing CPR, and EMS was called to the facility. Following transport to an area medical facility, the inmate was pronounced dead.

“We immediately notified our partners at the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The incident is being investigated by TDOC Office of Investigations and Compliance. CoreCivic is cooperating fully with the investigation. All further inquiries should be directed to the TDOC Communications Division.”

A spokesperson with the Tennessee Department of Corrections identified the inmate as Ross Hamilton Anderson, 34.

Anderson pleaded guilty to the 2015 murders of his 30-year-old girlfriend and her 5-year-old son in Bradley County and was serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Warden tells commissioners things improving at Hartsville prison

County commissioners heard from the warden of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center during a meeting of the Prison Oversight Committee last month.

At the Oct. 11 meeting, Russell Washburn spoke on what he called an improving situation at the CoreCivic facility, especially in terms of staff and morale.

Washburn said a change in shifts for correctional officers from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. to 6 a.m.-6 p.m. made it easier for staff to have more time with family.

Photo courtesy of CoreCivic

“That has had a huge impact on morale; it has reduced our call-ins by 50 percent,” Washburn told commissioners. “We are seeing a significant increase in applications… and we have the highest number of full-time employees we’ve had since we opened the doors.”

Washburn also said that all vocational instruction positions are currently filled and also spoke on an increase in medical staff at TTCC. Earlier this year, CoreCivic ended a contract with a third party to provide medical services and placed company personnel in those positions.

The warden said the number of medical staff had risen from 37 to 51 after the change. Among previous criticisms launched at TTCC was a lack of medical staff, something Washburn said the move was designed to address.

Trousdale Turner is set to undergo two audits in the next month: one by the American Correctional Association and the other by the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

An audit last year by the state cited serious staffing problems and led to significant fines against CoreCivic after hearings by the state legislature.

“Some of the past issues you hear about the prison is the staffing issue,” said County Mayor Stephen Chambers. “I’m glad to hear the changes there have helped with the recruiting issue. It’s going in a good direction.”

CoreCivic’s contract with Trousdale County to operate the facility runs through 2021.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Autopsy cites overdose in CoreCivic inmate’s death

An inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center who was part of a class-action lawsuit over treatment of diabetic prisoners died in March of a drug overdose, according to an autopsy report released by the state last week.

John Randall Young, 56, was among six inmates who filed a lawsuit accusing CoreCivic, which operates the Hartsville prison, of putting the health of diabetics at risk by providing unhealthy food, unpredictable meal times and inconsistent access to insulin shots.

Young died on March 15 after being found unresponsive in his cell by guards, according to the report. He was transported to Trousdale Medical Center and was declared dead shortly thereafter.

The state medical examiner’s office reported the cause of death as acute combined drug toxicity, citing methamphetamine, olanzapine (used to treat schizophrenia/bipolar) and mirtazapine (antidepressant) in his blood.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

The report also notes a past history of heart problems, stroke and lung cancer for Young.

The class-action lawsuit filed by prisoners claims that Trousdale Turner is regularly understaffed, putting diabetic inmates at risk. Inmates claim that understaffing causes the prison to often go into lockdown and they are forced to wait hours for insulin shots and that those shots sometimes never arrive.

The lawsuit was filed by six prisoners, of which three have been removed from the case. In addition to Young’s death, a federal judge dismissed the claims of inmate Richard Little in May because he is no longer incarcerated. Another plaintiff, Tazarius Leach, left the class-action case to pursue his own individual case. The remaining plaintiffs are Jasper Vick, Edward Judd and Douglas Dodson.

CoreCivic declined to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit but has previously said it is committed to “high-quality healthcare” for inmates and “appropriate levels of staffing” in the prisons it operates.

In other court filings, CoreCivic has claimed inmates are to blame for their poor health, citing a documented record of refusing insulin, using drugs and buying sugary snacks at the prison store in “willful non-compliance” with a diabetic diet.

CoreCivic has a five-year, $276 million contract to run Trousdale Turner, a 2,552-bed medium security prison in Hartsville. Allegations of understaffing and poor medical treatment have been a consistent issue since the facility opened in 2016 and were among the subjects of hearings by the state legislature last year.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com. Contributing: Staff reports

Protests put spotlight on diabetic lawsuits against CoreCivic

Protests at the Nashville headquarters of CoreCivic on Monday drew new attention to three lawsuits filed by inmates at the company’s Hartsville prison.

Inmates are alleging that diabetics are receiving inadequate care at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center by being denied timely access to insulin shots to control blood sugar.

A class-action lawsuit filed earlier this year by inmate Douglas Dodson alleges that inmates sometimes wait hours after meals to receive insulin shots because of understaffing and frequent lockdowns at the prison. Diabetics typically inject insulin when they eat.

RELATED LINK: Complaint filing against CoreCivic (PDF) 

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Former Trousdale inmate Thomas Leach filed a lawsuit in 2016 making similar claims against the Hartsville prison, and a third lawsuit was filed earlier this year after the death of inmate Jonathan Salada, who allegedly spent days in excruciating pain because of diabetes complications.

CoreCivic has denied wrongdoing in all three lawsuits. According to a report in The Tennessean, the company claimed in a court filing that Dodson and the other inmates have documented histories of skipping meals, refusing insulin shots, using illegal drugs and buying sugary snacks at the prison store in “willful non-compliance” with a diabetic diet.

In a statement on Tuesday, CoreCivic declined to respond to discuss the specifics of the lawsuits but said it is committed to “high-quality healthcare” for inmates and “appropriate levels of staffing” in company facilities.

At a recent meeting of Trousdale County’s Prison Oversight Committee, Warden Russell Washburn stated that CoreCivic recently terminated its contract with a third-party company to provide inmate healthcare at TTCC and brought that department back under company control.

The American Diabetes Association has filed a court motion in March to join the class-action lawsuit against CoreCivic.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com. Contributing: Staff reports

Former Hartsville prison employee faces sex charges

A former CoreCivic employee has been indicted on charges of having sexual contact with four inmates at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.

Jacinda Sue Sanders, 38, of Westmoreland, was indicted in June by the Trousdale County grand jury. She was arrested on July 27 and booked into the Trousdale County Jail.

The indictments allege that Sanders “…did unlawfully, while being a law enforcement officer or correctional employee, engage in sexual contact or sexual penetration… with a prisoner or inmate…” The incidents allegedly took place in August 2017.

Courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department

CoreCivic confirmed that Sanders was no longer employed at the Hartsville prison, but would not give specifics as to when her employment was terminated or information about her duties while employed there.

Department of Corrections records show that three of the four inmates remain incarcerated at TTCC, while one has been moved elsewhere.

CoreCivic spokewoman Amanda Gilchrist made the following statement: “CoreCivic is committed to the safety of every inmate in our care, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse. As soon as we became aware of this issue, we reported it to local law enforcement and our government partners, and we cooperated fully with the OIC investigation.”

Sanders was released on $10,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Oct. 15.

Additionally, a Hartsville man has been charged with attempting to introduce contraband into the county jail.

Trenton Allen Ervin, 20, was arrested on July 29 and booked into the jail.

Arrest affidavits state that Ervin brought a clear tote containing socks and sandals into the facility. Upon further inspection, deputies felt “a hard lump” in the heels of the sandals.

After being taken apart, one sandal was found to contain tobacco, while the other contained rolling papers and two bags of a “crystal like substance believed to be methamphetamine.”

Ervin was released on $1,500 bond and is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Aug. 10.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Trousdale Turner prison faces over $2 million in state fines

The head of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center acknowledged to lawmakers last week that the state has fined the prison over $2 million since the start of 2018.

Trousdale Turner was the subject of a scathing audit by the state comptroller’s office released last November that cited staffing problems, poor management, gang problems and multiple violations of TDOC policy at the prison.

“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 stated.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Both CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger and Warden Russell Washburn testified last Tuesday before the House’s Government Operations Committee during hearings on a bill to reauthorize the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The bill passed during a second hearing Monday afternoon after being amended to a two-year reauthorization rather than four years.

Additionally, the bill requires TDOC to provide an update on addressing findings in the November audit by the end of 2018 and calls for another audit by the comptroller’s office later this year.

“(Those fines) were largely due to vacancies and some medical discrepancies,” Washburn told the committee.

According to information provided to The Vidette by TDOC, the Trousdale Turner facility paid $322,059 in fines through December 2017, with an additional $2,245,250 in pending fines as of the end of March.

“I take full responsibility for some of the challenges we’ve had at Trousdale Turner,” Hininger added. “Since we opened the facility, we’ve had a real challenge to find labor – not only for correctional but for medical staff.”

Hininger noted an increase in pay at the prison and said TTCC was the highest-paying prison in the state.

“We take all allegations seriously,” Hininger said. “Some of the things raised today, we’ll follow up on too.”

At a hearing in December, lawmakers blasted both CoreCivic and the Hartsville prison for the failings listed in the audit. Lawmakers at that time spoke of reauthorizing TDOC for one year only.

“When are we ever going to hold these people accountable and make them address their issues or get out of the business?” committee member Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) said of CoreCivic.

“I can’t imagine a committee extending the Department of Correction four years, when there’s no evidence any of the issues raised by the comptroller have been remedied,” added committee member Mike Stewart (D-Nashville).

Former TDOC Commissioner Steve Norris testified that more oversight made for greater improvement during his tenure and urged lawmakers to continue to hold the prison industry accountable.

Family members of current and former inmates also testified before the committee.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

CoreCivic employee charged with having sex with inmate

An administrative clerk at the CoreCivic-owned Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week and charged with having sex with an inmate.

Crystal Rose Graves, 33, of Lafayette, was booked in at the Trousdale County Jail last Wednesday on a charge of having sexual relations with an inmate. She was released on $5,000 bond.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department

According to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Vidette, Graves admitted to Tennessee Department of Corrections agent Nathan Miller she had “sexual contact” with an inmate on three different occasions.

The affidavit said Graves admitted to having sexual intercourse with the inmate on two occasions, once in February and another in March. On a third occasion, Graves allegedly admitted she and the inmate “fondled each other.”

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist issued a statement on behalf of the prison.

“CoreCivic is committed to the safety and well being of every inmate in our care, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse and misconduct. We have in place an aggressive effort to prevent, detect and respond to all allegations of this nature,” Gilchrist said in the statement.

“When we became aware of this incident, we reported it immediately to local law enforcement and notified TDOC’s OIC. In addition, the employee in question has been terminated. While we cannot provide further detail during the ongoing law enforcement investigation, we are cooperating fully with their efforts.”

Graves is scheduled to appear April 27 at 9 a.m. in General Sessions Court.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

CoreCivic, Hartsville prison draw fire from lawmakers

Lawmakers used a hearing this week on reauthorizing the Tennessee Department of Corrections to take aim at CoreCivic and the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.

The hearing came on the heels of a scathing audit released last month that noted staffing problems and other violations of TDOC policy at the Hartsville prison, which opened in January 2016.

Lawmakers heard from one former guard at Trousdale Turner, who alleged prison officials neglected prisoners’ health.

Ashley Dixon, who worked at the prison for seven months before resigning, told the committee, “I witnessed two deaths during my time there of prisoners due to medical neglect. Both experiences changed me and both deaths will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

One death was reportedly a diabetic inmate who did not receive insulin shots, while the other allegedly committed suicide by swallowing dozens of blood pressure pills.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

In both cases, Dixon claimed prison staff failed to respond until it was too late.

Dixon also claimed she was told to downplay language in reports describing physical encounters with inmates.

Allegations have plagued the facility since it opened, including reports of gang activity and prisoner abuse.

A lack of correctional officers has been a consistent problem at TTCC, one both the current warden and his predecessors have acknowledged. CoreCivic has moved guards from other facilities to Hartsville to fill needed slots and previously contracted with an outside company to provide staff. That practice has ended, according to previous reports.

TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker told lawmakers that CoreCivic had paid a $43,000 fine this summer for violations regarding prison counts, but said there were no plans to issue fines for staffing violations.

Parker also said more recent inspections of Trousdale Turner have shown improvement at the facility.

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist made the following statement to The Vidette:

“While we’ve shared publicly that we’ve faced challenges at Trousdale Turner, we’ve been working hard and taking action to address those challenges. Our most recent facility-wide audit by TDOC reflects those efforts, as our facility was found to be in compliance with 97 percent of the required standards. While we’ve made significant progress, we know we still have work to do.

“CoreCivic has worked to make improvements in a number of areas. On staffing, ensuring all critical posts are filled is a top priority, and we’ve taken steps like significantly raising wages – the starting hourly wage for a new corrections officer at Trousdale Turner is $16.50, the highest in the state – while also providing signing bonuses, relocation bonuses and incentives for experienced staff. Additionally, we’ve worked to improve our processes around shift rosters to make sure the information is properly maintained and easily accessible, as well providing clarity around the times critical posts are and aren’t needed to avoid any confusion. TDOC has added an additional contract monitor to Trousdale Turner to ensure we are properly meeting all of our obligations to our inmates.

“We’ve also worked to make Trousdale Turner a place where inmates can prepare to successfully return to our communities. For example, nearly 700 inmates are enrolled in reentry programming ranging from educational opportunities to group therapy. We provide vocational training in high-demand careers such as masonry and computer programming, which helps people secure jobs once they’re released, and offerings like cognitive behavioral intervention and substance abuse treatment help inmates learn important life skills.

“We take very seriously our responsibilities to the legislature and our partners at TDOC. We appreciate their strong oversight and remain committed to operating safe, secure facilities with high-quality reentry programming.”

One lawmaker, Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said he would draft legislation for next year’s session of the General Assembly addressing privately owned prisons in Tennessee.

TDOC officials also said they would levy further fines against CoreCivic if the company continues to fail to meet guidelines in its contract with the state. The company has a five-year, $276 million contract to run Trousdale Turner through 2021.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

CoreCivic prison cited for ‘noncompliance’ in state audit

Audit findings released Tuesday by the state comptroller’s office were heavily critical of conditions at CoreCivic’s Hartsville prison.

The Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was cited in the report for “noncompliance with contract requirements and department policies” and also said that staffing reports at the prison “may not be reliable.”

The audit raised questions about the oversight being provided by the Tennessee Department of Corrections at the facility, which opened in January 2016.

File photo / Hartsville Vidette

“This report goes back to July 2014 and, as we’ve acknowledged previously, there were challenges with bringing the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center up to full speed after its opening. We’ve worked hard to address the challenges we’ve faced, and while we still have work to do, we are making progress,” CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist said in a statement regarding the audit.

“For example, we’ve significantly increased pay to attract and retain employees, with the starting salary at Trousdale now more than $16 per hour. We’re also offering immediate signing bonuses and relocation bonuses to make sure we’re an attractive option in a competitive Tennessee labor market.”

According to the report, Trousdale Turner had unstaffed posts defined as “critical” on several days, had a roster that did not match state-approved staffing patterns and was consistently short-staffed.

Critical positions are defined as ones that would jeopardize the security or safety of the facility if left unstaffed.

Lack of staffing has been a near-constant criticism of Trousdale Turner since its opening, especially in the number of guards. For a time after opening, CoreCivic contracted with a third party to fill positions – a practice which ceased last year, according to past reports.

Analysis also indicated instances of officers working 16 hours or more at a time and noted a lack of staffing rosters that were requested by auditors.

RELATED LINK: State comptroller’s audit

Another finding cited “multiple instances of noncompliance” with state policies at Trousdale Turner, including a lack of grievance and sick call forms. Also, only one of four pods had instructions for obtaining medical care posted, which is required by TDOC policy.

In its response, TDOC noted a lack of monitoring staff and having a single contract monitor at the facility. The contract monitor is charged with ensuring compliance with policies, contract provisions and directives from TDOC.

CoreCivic received a five-year, $276 million contract to operate Trousdale Turner. State law essentially allows for only one private prison in Tennessee, but Trousdale County contracted with CoreCivic and serves as a pass-through with county government paying CoreCivic after receiving the money from the state.

The audit also notes that the mix of inmates transferred to TTCC could be responsible for some issues, citing “those with disciplinary issues, inmate compatibility issues, or … gang affiliation.” Former warden Blair Leibach noted at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon earlier this year that when a new facility opens, existing prisons tend to transfer their problem inmates.

“Instability in leadership” was also noted, with Trousdale Turner currently on its third warden since opening.

“TDOC recently conducted a follow-up audit at Trousdale Turner and while we are still awaiting the final report findings, we are encouraged by the initial feedback and look forward to its release,” Gilchrist said.

“We appreciate the strong oversight by our government partners and remain committed to operating safe, secure facilities with high-quality reentry programming.”

Mary Mancini, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, issued the following statement:

“We didn’t need an audit to know private prisons are immoral and should not exist. There should never be a financial incentive for incarceration. This audit confirms there is insufficient oversight of the private contractors and that outsourcing is not about efficiency, but about using public dollars to create corporate profits. The Tennessee legislature should end the use of private prisons immediately.”

County Mayor Carroll Carman told The Vidette he wanted to review the audit findings before commenting.

The complete audit is available online at comptroller.tn.gov/repository/SA/pa17275.pdf.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Guard stabbed at Trousdale Turner prison

A correctional officer at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was assaulted Wednesday afternoon by an inmate, according to prison officials.

CoreCivic spokesman Jonathan Burns released the following statement:

Photo courtesy of CoreCivic

“There was an inmate on correctional officer assault on the afternoon of September 6 at Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility.

The correctional officer is stable and being treated at an outside medical facility. The facility is on lockdown.

We are fully cooperating with our government partner and the incident is being investigated.”

Trousdale EMS Director Matt Batey told The Vidette that the officer was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt Medical Center with multiple stab wounds that were believed not to be life threatening.

No further information was available.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Prison officials meet with community leaders

CoreCivic welcomed members of the community to its Trousdale Turner Correctional Center last Tuesday for an informational luncheon at the prison.

The prison, which has seen its share of negative publicity since opening in 2016, held a quarterly meeting for its Community Relations Committee, consisting of local government and business officials. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The author is a member of said committee.)

“We want to tell about the great things the men and women that are serving at this facility, what they’re accomplishing and providing to the community,” said warden Russell Washburn, who took over at TTCC in June.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Warden Russell Washburn, left, speaks with members of the audience during last week’s luncheon.

“More importantly, we want to hear from you as community partners; things we can do to support the county or community as a whole.”

Washburn talked about his background, including a 21-year career in corrections at sites in Florida, Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma, and also introduced various staff members.

The new warden also wants to emphasize efforts to reach out to local youth, both about potential future careers at Trousdale Turner and via partnerships with local programs and organizations.

“We want to be very engaged with the community,” Washburn said.

The need to fill jobs was also high on Washburn’s list of items to discuss. While noting that corrections officers are the biggest need at TTCC, he also noted potential career opportunities in education, case managers, counseling and other areas.

Washburn also noted the need for local housing for those who work at the prison and asked that members of the community contact his office with information on local housing, whether rental or otherwise.

Assistant warden Yolanda Pittman emphasized the programs available to TTCC inmates to prepare them for life after prison.

“We have a very diverse program department, with 18 academic teachers and six vocational,” she said.

According to Pittman, 19 inmates have received NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) certification this year, with 28 earning such certification since the facility opened. Additionally, TTCC hopes to have over 40 inmates receive their high school equivalency degrees by year’s end, she said.

Pittman also noted participation in job fairs designed to find opportunities for inmates who are close to their release dates, and drug treatment programs offered at the facility.

Washburn took questions from the audience, mostly dealing with jobs and community involvement. He touched slightly on some of the recent media coverage, including WSMV’s series dealing with alleged problems at TTCC.

“There are more better days in any jail than those when unfortunate things occur,” he said. “It would be naïve for us to think that we’re going to take 2,500 people and never have any issues. Our goal is to lessen those opportunities… for future incidents.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Prison guard accused of sex with inmate

A guard at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week and charged with having sexual contact with an inmate.

Andrea Juanita Caery, 43, of Lafayette, was booked into the Trousdale County Jail on Sunday, June 25, with bond set at $1,000.

Submitted

According to an affidavit of complaint filed by Tennessee Department of Corrections Special Agent Ramon Sherrell, Carey admitted to two incidents of sexual intercourse with an inmate identified as Alphonso James on June 23 and June 25.

The complaint stated that Caery was observed on camera walking from one unit pod to another, entering a cell and leaving after approximately 20 minutes. Caery was allegedly seen on camera adjusting her clothes and bra after leaving the cell.

CoreCivic Public Affairs Manager Amanda Gilchrist issued the following statement: “CoreCivic is committed to the safety and well-being of every inmate in our care, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse and misconduct. We have in place an aggressive effort to prevent, detect and respond to all allegations of this nature.

“When we became aware of this incident, we reported it immediately to local law enforcement, and the employee in question has been terminated. While we cannot provide further detail during the ongoing law enforcement investigation, we are cooperating fully with their efforts.”

Caery is scheduled to appear in Trousdale County General Sessions Court on July 14.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Local woman charged with smuggling drugs into prison

A Hartsville woman is facing charges after allegedly trying to smuggle contraband into the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center last month.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Jessica Nicole Scruggs, 32, is charged with introducing/possessing contraband in a penal institute, listed as a Class C felony. She was booked into the Trousdale County Jail on June 2 and released on $4,000 bond.

According to a copy of the arrest complaint obtained by The Vidette, Scruggs was witnessed on prison camera footage allegedly removing a black object from her pants and handed it across her table to her boyfriend, identified as inmate Dustin Whisenhunt.

Whisenhunt was searched and the object was allegedly found to contain 14 grams of marijuana and 58 grams of loose tobacco.

The complaint also states that Tennessee Department of Corrections Special Agent Ramon Sherrell listened to recorded prison telephone conversations between the couple, in which Scruggs allegedly agreed to share marijuana she had received with Whisenhunt.

Scruggs is scheduled to appear in court on June 9.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Inmate accused of stabbing guard at Trousdale prison

An inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center has been charged with aggravated assault after allegedly stabbing a guard on May 15.

According to an incident report obtained from the Tennessee Department of Corrections, Dantwan Leslie Crump, 26, allegedly assaulted a guard from behind and stabbed him in the upper left shoulder with a homemade weapon. The report says the stabbing occurred after the guard used OC spray on another inmate, identified as Brian Roberson.

Submitted
Dantwan Crump

The Macon County Chronicle identified the guard as Lt. Dennison Joe and reported that Crump admitted that he had assaulted Lt. Joe because Lt. Joe had “sprayed (with OC) his homie and he had to jump in.”

Officials with the District Attorney’s office told The Vidette that the guard’s injuries were minor, requiring only stitches, and that he had returned to work the next day.

According to TDOC records, Crump has since been transferred to a prison in Morgan County. He was booked into the Trousdale County Jail on $1 million bond and then returned to TDOC custody. He is set to appear in court on June 9.

Additionally, a Springfield woman was charged on May 21 with attempting to introduce contraband into the prison.

According to an affidavit of complaint obtained by The Vidette, Shana Renee Moran, 45, was visiting her boyfriend, identified as Jeffrey Stewart, at the prison when a guard allegedly witnessed Stewart pull a black package from a pile of snacks she had placed on an empty table.

After a search of the inmate, the package was allegedly found to contain 56 grams of marijuana, 16.3 grams of cocaine and tobacco. Moran’s vehicle was also searched and allegedly found to contain four pills of gabapentin, which is commonly used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain.

Moran was arrested by Trousdale County sheriff’s deputies and booked on charges of introducing/possessing contraband in a penal institution, two counts of possession of drugs and a count of unlawful possession of a prescription drug. As of Monday morning, she remained in the Trousdale County Jail on $45,000 bond and is set to appear in court on June 23.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Warden says things ‘settling down’ at prison

The warden of Trousdale County’s prison said things at the facility were “settling down” during last week’s meeting of the Hartsville/Trousdale County Chamber of Commerce.

Blair Leibach, who heads operations at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, was the guest speaker last Tuesday. Leibach took over as warden in March 2016, two months after the facility opened.

Since opening, the CoreCivic (formerly CCA) prison has been the subject of numerous complaints by inmates and family members regarding a number of issues, including understaffing and untreated medical concerns. For a time, the state stopped sending prisoners to the 2,552-bed prison, the largest in Tennessee.

Blair Leibach

The warden said problems had been addressed, while adding that many of the prison’s issues stemmed from an “sophisticated inmate population and an inexperienced staff.”

“Probably 85 percent of my staff has just over a year in corrections,” Leibach said. “That’s one of the things that makes a startup so difficult. Plus, when you open a new facility, people (at other prisons) are going to send you what they don’t want.”

“The population at the facility was initially a little rough. We are slowly but surely changing a culture.”

Leibach noted the company had offered better incentives to retain staff, including greater starting pay, referral and sign-on bonuses and relocation packages. The warden said an outside security company, G4S, had been sending staff to work at TTCC, but added that contract has expired and non-CoreCivic personnel are no longer working on site.

“We’ve got staff that understand what the processes, the policies, are and are enforcing those, and the inmate population is coming to realize they can’t get away with things they used to get away with,” the warden said.

Leibach said his view of corrections had changed considerably over a career dating to the 1980s.

“I’ve come to understand these individuals are people. We have an obligation as corrections professionals to give these individuals tools to be successful when they reenter society,” Leibach said.

Leibach said TTCC had implemented programs – both educational and vocational – to help inmates make the eventual transition to life outside prison. There are also drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, and programs teaching social life skills, to learn how to be productive citizens once released.

Leibach praised former Trousdale County Elementary principal Johnny Kerr, who now heads educational programs at the prison.

According to the warden, the prison currently has around 500 inmates utilizing the educational programs and has a capacity for 700.

“John has done a tremendous job with those students. We’re seeing more involvement, more motivation from the inmate population,” Leibach said.

While noting previous bad publicity, Leibach said he was proud of the work his staff has done in turning things around.

“It takes its toll, but people are there giving 150 percent every single day to make sure the mission is carried out.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

CoreCivic welcomes Jones to Hartsville facility

CoreCivic (formerly CCA) is proud to welcome a new assistant warden to its Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Andrew Jones.

Assistant Warden Jones is a native of Georgia, and a dedicated and innovative professional with proficiency both as an educator and administrator.

Submitted photo

His professional background includes 10 years with the Tennessee Department of Corrections, over 10 years of service with Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Marshalls Service, two years with the Vermont Department of Corrections, over a year spent with the California Department of Corrections, one year with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and time spent with the Hawaii Department of Corrections and Jackson-Madison County Jail.

Jones is an experienced manager of bilingual male and female inmate/detainee populations. He enjoys contributing to a team effort to include cross audits of multiple CoreCivic locations as a subject matter expert. He is also fluent in major computer software, including CoreCivic-specific software such as J.D. Edwards, Kronos, OMS2, PMDS, LMS, IRD, and INFOR.

Over his career, Jones has demonstrated expertise in compliance of laws and has a proven ability to conduct both community and media relations outreach.

Jones currently serves as the Assistant Warden of Operational Services at the Hartsville facility. He also served in United States Army and maintained the rank of E-4 (Specialist).