department of correction

Lee boosts pay for Tennessee prison guards

Republican Bill Lee speaks at a rally in Franklin on Oct. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is boosting starting pay by 37% for newly hired prison guards and hiking salaries by at least 15% for current corrections officers.

State Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) praised the move:

“This is great news not only for the deserving workers who receive the pay raise and their families, but for the safety of all Tennesseans. These positions are extremely important to operations in our prisons and are some of the most challenging and dangerous jobs in state government.  Governor Lee’s action to increase salaries is critical in keeping our veteran officers on the job whose valuable experience helps to make our prisons safe. The increase in salaries will benefit many correctional officers and help alleviate the problem Tennessee has experienced in filling and keeping correctional officers in a very competitive labor market.”

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a competitive 37% salary increase for new Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) correctional officers amid nationwide staffing challenges, effective Dec. 16.

“As we face staffing shortages across the country, rewarding officers with competitive pay will ensure we recruit and retain the most highly qualified individuals in our workforce,” said Gov. Lee. “These Tennesseans play a crucial role in ensuring public safety and we remain committed to valuing their important work.”

The 37% salary increase for new TDOC correctional officers will raise annual starting pay to $44,500. Current security staff will receive a minimum 15% pay increase.

Additionally, TDOC provides a competitive benefits package including:

  • Insurance coverage and retirement benefits
  • Paid holidays and vacation
  • Tuition reimbursement and college degree programs
  • Equipment and uniforms provided
  • Overtime/compensatory time pay

TDOC will continue to offer a $5,000 hiring bonus and part-time opportunities for current or retired law enforcement to meet staffing needs.

“The men and women who work in facilities across Tennessee are dedicated public servants,” said TDOC Interim Commissioner Lisa Helton. “This salary increase makes our agency more competitive in attracting new talent and is a well-deserved raise for those currently serving our state.”

Individuals interested in a TDOC career can find more information and apply here.

Parker to retire as corrections commissioner

Gov. Bill Lee, bottom left, looks on as his Cabinet takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig Tennessee Journal)

Commissioner Tony Parker is retiring this fall after 38 years with the Tennessee Department of Correction. Parker was named commissioner by then-Gov. Bill Haslam in 2016 and Gov. Bill Lee retained him in the Cabinet when he was sworn into office in 2019.

Here’s the release from Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE – After 38 years of dedicated service to the Tennessee Department of Correction, Commissioner Tony Parker has announced his retirement, effective this fall.  Parker began his career as a correctional officer and rose through the ranks to Commissioner following his initial appointment by former Governor Bill Haslam in 2016 and re-appointment by Governor Bill Lee in 2019.

“I am forever grateful to Governor Bill Lee for placing his trust in me and allowing me to continue to serve as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction.  After 38 years of service, I have decided to retire this fall to return to West Tennessee and catch up on spending quality time with my family and friends,” said Parker.

“Tony Parker is a true public servant, and I am deeply grateful for his commitment to making Tennessee a safer place to live, work and raise a family,” said Gov. Lee.  “Over the last four decades, Commissioner Parker played a pivotal role in efforts to enhance public safety and improve Tennessee’s criminal justice system, and his impact on the Department of Correction will be seen for many years to come.  Maria and I wish Commissioner Parker and his family the best in their next chapter.”

Parker, who also serves as president of the American Correctional Association, counts among the agency’s accomplishments during his tenure: passage and implementation of the Public Safety Act of 2016, a consistent decline in recidivism for individuals leaving TDOC custody, as well as a reduction of individuals returning to incarceration for technical violations, creation of Day Reporting Centers as an alternative to incarceration, and salary increases for correctional staff.

“While we have accomplished much, there is more to be done that the government cannot do alone.  Criminal justice reform will require the collaboration of non-profit and private sector partners, working with public agencies at every level to achieve true sustainable success.  Serving under Governor Lee has provided me an opportunity to see the positive effects true criminal justice reform can have on the lives of the formerly incarcerated.  The Governor’s passion for ensuring individuals are better prepared to lead successful lives as productive citizens after incarceration will have a lasting impact on our state by creating safer and healthier communities and fewer victims,” said Parker.

Before being named Commissioner, Parker served as Assistant Commissioner, Correctional Administrator and Warden, among other roles.  He has led the agency’s more than 6,000 employees, supervision of more than 20,000 incarcerated individuals and 70,000 people on community supervision since 2016.

“It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve Tennessee and its citizens. May God continue to bless our great state,” said Parker.