Audit: Tennessee Department of Correction Leaders Must Improve Oversight

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Tennessee Comptrollers released an audit Friday that, among other things, blasted the Tennessee Department of Correction for poor management of prisons and not reporting things they were supposed to report.

The audit contains 18 findings and numerous observations detailing areas where problems need to be addressed.

The audit’s key conclusions include the following:

• TDOC’s leadership must improve its oversight in order to ensure compliance with laws, regulations and polices; provide safe and secure facilities; and reduce the risk to public safety.

• TDOC’s annual inspection percentage scores of facilities do not provide a clear measure of correctional facility performance. These scores do not give additional weight to critical findings that may impact safety and security.

• TDOC has not ensured that data on incidents, including deaths and other serious incidents, is valid and reliable.

• TDOC should ensure that staff follow policies and procedures for investigating sexual abuse and harassment allegations.

 • TDOC did not ensure its medical and mental health contractors met required staffing levels, and it allowed contractors to offset assessed liquated damages outside of the contracts’ authority.

 • TDOC must be able to demonstrate that inmates are receiving sufficient medical and mental health services.

• TDOC and CoreCivic must continue efforts to ensure adequate staffing in order to provide safe and secure facilities. CoreCivic must also continue making progress on the accuracy of its monthly staffing reports.

• Management must ensure staff perform inmate screenings within required timeframes. Management must also be sure inmates are aware of information and services the department provides.

 • Although there has been improvement, the department has still not ensured adequate monitoring of individuals placed on parole or probation.

• The department has had difficulties in replacing its outdated information management system for offender data.

• Department management did not ensure that its staff and CoreCivic complied with public records regulations, resulting in lost records as well as potential evidence.

• The department has not reported recidivism rates for inmates who participated in educational andvocational programs, as required by statute.

Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson said TDOC must review each of these findings and develop plans to correct them.

“It’s likely this will include revising current policies, training and re-training staff, and performing additional monitoring to ensure laws and policies are being followed,” Wilson said in a press release.

TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker said in an emailed statement to The Tennessee Star that his department concurs, in part, with the Comptrollers’ findings.

“We maintain that the TDOC operates safe and secure prisons and provides effective community supervision. The majority of the findings can be attributed to technology challenges, delayed reporting, and the staff shortages that our state, like many others, currently experience,” Parker wrote.

“It is important to note that the department is certified by the Department of Justice for PREA compliance, fully accredited by the American Correctional Association, and many of our processes and protocols exceed national standards. Nevertheless, the department recognizes and is committed to improving our processes and procedures as well as enhancing our own internal auditing processes as recommended by the Comptroller that will help the TDOC be a better and more efficient department.”

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist, meanwhile, said members of her company will work with TDOC to make sure administrative processes are fully compliant and transparent.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Tennessee Department of Corrections Logo” by Tennessee Department of Corrections.

 

 

 

 

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