TN auditors find troubles at CoreCivic prisons

A state comptroller’s audit has found several problems at private prisons operated for the state of Tennessee by CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America. Short staffing at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, the newest and largest prison in the state, is a major focus, but there’s also criticism of operations at Whiteville Correctional Facility and Hardeman County Correctional Center.

The full audit is HERE. Excerpt from The Tennessean report:

“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.

Tennessee House Democratic leaders, frequent critics of private prisons and advocates for additional prison oversight, pounced on the audit findings. House Minority leader Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, said he would support a legislative procedural move to delay department operations until the audit findings are addressed.

“Today we have explosive findings. Clearly we have CoreCivic facilities that are a powder keg waiting to explode, potentially endangering the public,” Stewart said.

“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.”

The Tennessee State Employee Association, an organization that represents prison officers and other state workers, pointed to the audit findings to renew its call for Tennessee to end using private prisons.

…The stock market reacted to the news as well. CoreCivic shareprices dropped almost 6 percent, closing the day down $1.45 to $22.92, the lowest price all year.

…A CoreCivic spokeswoman acknowledged previous challenges at the facility and said “we still have work to do” but said the company has made progress since the prison opened.

“For example, we’ve significantly increased pay to attract and retain employees, with the starting salary at Trousdale now more than $16 per hour,” spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist said in an email Tuesday afternoon. She said the firm is awaiting the results of a follow-up audit.

Note: See also the AP report , somewhat similar and straightforward, and WSMV (which has been reporting for some time on problems at Hartsville.) The Nashville Scene’s report begins: A new state audit confirms what inmates, their families, activists and news reports have been saying for years: Prison facilities run by CoreCivic — formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America — are short-staffed and poorly run.

Tennessee Democratic Chair Mary Mancini joined the critical Democratic chorus with this statement sent to media:

“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.”


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