Tennessee Prisons Want 600 New Correctional Officers Following Report Showing Critical Staffing Shortages, High Attrition Rate

Corrections Officer

A Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) official explained on Wednesday that the agency seeks to hire and retain 600 new correctional officers following an audit which revealed Tennessee prisons continue to face “critical staffing shortages” and a high turnover rate for employees.

As TDOC seeks to fill these positions across Tennessee, NewsChannel 5 recently reported the agency is offering incentives, including a $5,000 signing bonus. One prison warden told the outlet the work is challenging but rewarding. Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation warden Taurean James explained, “it is a job for individuals seeking a structured environment” and “looking to help individuals.”

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Tennessee Department of Correction Announces New Security Procedures to Better Identify Smuggled Contraband

The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) announced a new security protocol that applies to everyone who enters TDOC prisons in 2023.

Beginning this month, all people who enter a TDOC prison will be required to be screened by a full body scanner. The scanners are meant to “act as deterrents for individuals considering bringing contraband into a facility,” TDOC explained in a recent press release.

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State Department of Corrections Holds Training on Public Engagement at University of Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) said it trained last week at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville on how to engage with the public.

“TDOC’s Communications team is participating in an intensive, week-long training session at the The University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC), where we’re learning how to better inform, engage, and educate the public about the true mission of corrections.” TDOC said on Facebook. “We’re looking forward to being back in full force next week, bringing you industry best practices to better serve you!”

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Former TDOC Officers Indicted for Alleged Assault, Coverup

Two former Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) officers are in legal trouble after allegedly assaulting an inmate and attempting to hide the evidence. 

“The Department of Justice announced that Javian Griffin, 36, and Sebron Hollands, 32, two former tactical officers with the Strike Force for the Tennessee Department of Corrections, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Memphis, Tennessee,” according to a DOJ press release. “Griffin is charged with using unlawful force against an inmate at Northwest Correctional Complex. Griffin and Hollands are both charged with obstruction of justice for writing false reports about Griffin’s assault.”

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Certain Prisoners Now Front of Line for COVID Vaccinations Following Reports of Panel Saying It Would be ‘PR Nightmare’

Select Tennessee prisoners will now receive COVID-19 vaccinations, following a report on officials’ apparent hesitancy to prioritize them initially. The state progressed to Phase 1C of its vaccination plan earlier this week, which extends vaccines to those prisoners who are 65 and older or have eligible health conditions. Others now eligible to receive the vaccine are individuals 16 years old and older that have diabetes, Down syndrome, or any progressive neuromuscular diseases, or live in households with pregnant women.

The announcement to vaccinate these prisoners came shortly after it was discovered that officials determining the order of vaccine priority groups were hesitant to prioritize prisoners due to the optics of placing them ahead of other citizens. The Pandemic Vaccine Planning Stakeholder group, an advisory panel that assists in vaccine rollout decisions and communication with citizens across the state, reportedly stated during one of its meetings that prioritizing prisoners could prove a public relations “nightmare” and, possibly, a state liability. The Associated Press discovered these remarks in an open records request for the group’s meeting notes late last week.

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Bill Prohibiting Halloween Activities, Imposing Curfew for Registered Sex Offenders Moves Through House

A bill prohibiting Halloween activities and mandating a curfew for registered sex offenders has moved steadily through the State House. The legislation was introduced by Representative Lowell Russell (R-Vonore), a retired member of law enforcement himself. 

The bill would align with similar rules previously imposed on offenders by law enforcement around the holiday. Since 2015, Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) has implemented “Operation Blackout,” a coordinated effort to conduct compliance checks on sex offenders that were on probation or parole come Halloween night. The offenders were required to abide by a 12-hour curfew and no-costume policy, as well as keep their porch lights off, doors closed to trick-or-treaters, and homes free of all fall decorations.

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