The Tennessee Department of Correction during a hearing Thursday announced changes in how assaults are defined in Tennessee’s prisons.
Tuesday afternoon the Corrections Subcommittee of the Senate State and Local Government Committee requested testimony from TSEA and the Department of Correction about the progress TDOC has made on implementing the recommendations included in a September 2015 American Correctional Association audit.
The department’s changes to assault definitions include removing injury as a defining term in disciplinary rules, removing the disciplinary offenses of assault and staff/inmate provocation, and adding assault with a weapon and assault without a weapon. According to the department, these new policies go in to effect on January 11.
These assault definition changes are part of several recent changes made by the department as a result of pressure from Legislators, TDOC employees, TSEA, the media, and were the recommendations of the ACA auditors.
The September 2015 ACA audit also recommended changing TDOC correctional officer work periods from 28-days to 14 days, and shift assignments from 8 hours to 12 hours.
TDOC says they are allowing each correctional facility the option to choose their shift assignments from either the 6/3 rotation (8.5-9 hour shifts) or the 12 hour schedule.
The department told TSEA during a December interview that if TDOC decided to move to a 14-day work period, Edison would require approximately eight months for programming changes to implement the new work period. Edison Director Sandy Graf confirmed this timeline during Thursday’s hearing.
When Senator Yarbro asked Director Graf how long Edison would require to return to the 40-hour work week, she said “about two or three months.” The department has not indicated any interest in returning to a 40-hour work period.
TSEA is pleased to hear the department has made the ACA recommended changes to the definitions of assault. We are also encouraged by recent steps taken by Commissioner Schofield to increase pay for TDOC employees. Some things appear to be headed in the right direction; however, the way overtime is calculated and the 28-day work period continue to be major problems for many employees.
TSEA, with the help of legislators, will continue to pressure the department to consider a return to the 40-hour work week, or change to the 14-day work period. We will also monitor the implementation of the changes mentioned above. It is possible that we will conduct another survey of our own to gather more feedback on the remaining items that need to be addressed.
To view TSEA’s handout for legislators, click here.
To view TDOC’s PowerPoint presentation, click here.
To view Thursday’s Senate hearing in its entirety, click here.
To view the results of the TDOC/TSEA work schedule survey, click here.