The recent series of events affecting the lives of officers working within the Tennessee Department of Correction has TSEA very concerned about officer safety within the department.
According to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Correction, three officers were stabbed multiple times at Turney Center Industrial Complex Sunday evening during what the department is calling a disturbance. Officers Lester Ball, Jesse Shockley, and Paul Nielson were all taken by helicopter to a local hospital. Officer Ball was treated and released overnight. Officers Jesse Shockley and Paul Neilson remain hospitalized in stable condition.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured correctional officers and their families at this time,” TSEA President Bryan Merritt said. “This is the unfortunate threat our correctional officers face every day. They train for the worst and always hope for the best. Our officers and the department work to make the prisons as safe as possible, but they are dealing with a very volatile population who are unpredictable at times.”
The incident began around 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon and involved 16 inmates. According to the department, Officers Ball and Nelson were removed from the area immediately. However, inmates held Officer Shockley hostage for three hours until TDOC’s Special Operations Unit regained control of the situation. All 16 inmates have since been relocated to Morgan County Correctional Complex, a Maximum security facility.
Late last month we learned from an internal TDOC memo that three correctional officers within TDOC died by suicide in March.
TSEA this year filed two legislative bills to address issues within TDOC. One bill (HB188/SB1145) would bring back the Corrections Oversight Committee, and the other bill (HB1409/SB282) addresses Hazardous Duty Supplemental Pay for job categories directly associated with the routine handling of inmates.
“We appreciate the tough job these state employees do every single day, and the risk they take on to keep the public safe, and we are doing everything we can to help,” Merritt said.
TSEA has historically advocated for better pay, improving scheduling, and addressing safety conditions for our correctional officers. We will continue to communicate to Commissioner Tony Parker, his staff, and the legislature the need to address these serious issues.