Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Ed Jackson hears testimony on issues regarding Tennessee’s prison system

NASHVILLE — The Senate Corrections Subcommittee of the State and Local Government Committee met in Nashville on Thursday to examine issues regarding the recruitment and retention of Tennessee Department of Correction (DOC) employees, the implementation of the 28-day work cycle and the classification and reporting of incidents in prisons across the state. The Subcommittee, which is chaired by Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), heard testimony from DOC workers, former employees, a representative of the Tennessee State Employees Association, as well as Commissioner Derrick Schofield and members of his staff.

Jackson opened the committee by calling for a fact-based discussion. “We are not here to point fingers, but we are here to have an honest and open fact-based discussion on allegations of problems within our corrections system,” he said. “The Department of Corrections deals with the worst of the worst in our state. This job is dangerous and it’s thankless. Our utmost concern is for the safety of our corrections officers on the front lines and their safety must be top priority. We also want to be aware of and protect the safety of the public.”

Some of the specific issues discussed during the meeting included increased turnover rates of DOC officers and resulting manpower shortages, changes in how assaults and provocations are being analyzed or reported, the procedure for calculating hours worked, and the general safety of correctional officers and the general public. During the hearing, Commissioner Schofield told committee members he is contracting with the American Correctional Association to review the department’s policies and procedures and make recommendations. The ACA is responsible for accrediting prisons in Tennessee and other states. Schofield said the department will follow any recommendations provided by the Association to improve policy and procedural shortcomings.

“The meeting was very productive in airing all sides of these issues, with a focus on what we can do to improve working conditions and safety at our prisons,” added Jackson. “We will continue to look closely at these matters in the coming months before the General Assembly reconvenes. We also look forward to seeing what the ACA recommends and will offer any information we can to assist in their efforts.”

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