NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Employees Association today, in light of continued noncompliance with state contract requirements and department policies as reported by the state comptroller, is calling for the State of Tennessee to end its relationship with private prison corporation Core Civic.
This insistence is based on findings contained in a Comptroller’s Performance Audit report of the Department of Correction released earlier today. Those findings include Core Civic operating facilities with fewer than the approved number of correctional officer staff, not having all staffing rosters, not following staffing pattern guidelines, leaving critical posts unstaffed, and nearly two-years of continued noncompliance with state contract requirements and department policies.
The department in their response to one of the comptroller’s findings said the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center’s facility Contract Monitor has submitted 36 noncompliance reports in the last 18 months that relate to nearly every area of the facility. An annual audit from March contained 66 deficiencies according to TDOC’s comment. TDOC says, “the department has also submitted a breach of contract requesting liquidated damages due to continued noncompliance on a critical operational issue.”
“When taxpayers hire a private company to provide a public service, there is simply no excuse for two years of continued non-compliance with the contract,” TSEA Executive Director Randy Stamps said. “TSEA appreciates the comptroller’s important and thorough review of TDOC and its contracts and we commend TDOC for submitting a breach of contract. In light of these findings, we believe it is time to move on from this and all private prison contracts and operate all Tennessee state prison facilities with state employees who have proven their ability to effectively maintain and operate safe and secure prisons. There is simply no good reason to continue paying a private prison company who is in breach of a state contract and providing an inferior product to what state employees can provide.”
Questions surround the number of private prisons currently operating in Tennessee. Tennessee code annotated § 41-24-103(c) says, “A contract for correctional services as defined in § 41-24-102(2)(F) is authorized only for one (1) medium security or minimum security facility opened after July 1, 1991, and only according to the requirements and procedures specified in this chapter.” In Tennessee, Corrections Corporation of America operates four facilities: South Central Correctional Facility, Whiteville Correctional Facility, Hardeman County Correctional Facility, and the Trousdale Turner Correction center.
Core Civic’s private prison contracts also contain occupancy guarantees of 90 percent which require taxpayers to fund private prison operations at all times based on a minimum of 90 percent occupancy, even if the facility is only 50 percent full. Also, private prison contracts put taxpayers on the hook for guaranteed annual 2.5 percent operating Per Diem Rate increases. For comparison, correctional officers working at state-run facilities do not receive guaranteed pay increases.
“Thirty years ago, the members of our Legislature had the foresight to statutorily limit state contracts with private prison companies to only one; nonetheless, private prison conglomerate Core-Civic has figured out how to get around state law by contracting with local counties to operate more than one private prison in Tennessee,” Stamps said. “We think they are abusing the law.”
Founded in 1974, TSEA represents the rights and interests of all state employees in Tennessee and has a rich history of improving the lives of its state employee members. For more information, visit TSEA’s website at www.tseaonline.org.
To view the Comptroller’s Audit, CLICK HERE.