On Tuesday, TSEA met with American Correctional Association Executive Director Jim Gondles, ACA consultant and former Massachusetts Corrections Commissioner Luis S. Spencer, and ACA auditor and former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections Richard Stalder. These three people make up the team of auditors who were hired by Tennessee to audit our prison system. Only TSEA and the ACA representatives were in the meeting, no TDOC personnel were present.
During the first part of the 45 minute meeting, TSEA was told the following:
Tennessee prisons are scheduled on a 3-year rotating cycle for re-accreditation. TDOC accreditation audits normally consist of 2 to 3 auditors working over a 2 to 3-day period to determine if the facilities are within compliance. In years when the facilities are not being audited, they conduct annual self-reporting.
For this particular review, TSEA was informed that Commissioner Schofield asked for what these ACA Consultants referred to as a “technical review,” not an audit. This group was asked to look at the following areas:
- Structure of DOC system
- Work schedules per the 28-day schedule
- Definitions of assaults vs inmate provocations
- Issue of Overtime
Their 3-person Technical Review group visited West TN, Northwest, Riverbend, Deberry and Bledsoe correctional facilities spending several hours at each facility. They said they met with several area staff and line staff employees, including interviewing some correctional officers. Gondles said he also spoke with several inmates.
They all said they felt they were able to have candid and open conversations with the employees and that employees felt at ease to share their opinions with them.
TSEA asked the ACA representatives a few questions:
What is included in a typical ACA audit?
ACA Response: As part of the 3-year scheduled review the audit group said they look at these areas:
- Number of escapes (“If escapes are down and managed, then all else pretty well takes care of itself,” they commented.)
- Cleanliness of the facility
- Organization and order
- Discipline of inmates
- Productivity of inmates
Are they aware of the vacancy issues in TN?
ACA Response: They have “a sense” that there has been a vacancy issue over a period of time as they determined from reports they reviewed of turnover and vacancy rates for the past several months.
Are they looking in to what we believe are vague and hazardous assault reporting practices?
ACA Response: They admitted in review of the assault vs inmate provocation classification, that there is a clear gap between the two, and all types of actions by inmates must be taken seriously. They said they definitely will include a recommendation as part of their report on this issue.
Are they investigating the impact of the 28-day cycle?
ACA Response: They said they recognized there are areas of concern around the 28-day schedule of which they would definitely make a recommendation.
They also said they would speak to the issue of staffing exits as a recommendation in their report.
We asked about their review of staffing and rosters.
ACA Response: They admitted they reviewed rosters, but only rosters for the current day/shifts. They didn’t review any of the rosters for the previous months.
We asked about a $40,000 payment shown in the Edison system from TDOC to the Correctional Accreditation Managers Association, and how this might affect objectivity.
ACA Response: They said CAMA was an affiliate of ACA, but there is no formal relationship between CAMA and ACA. They responded that the payment was actually made to ACA. One Consultant thought the payment was for the accreditation, but the Executive Director replied that may not be correct, that he was not sure what the payment was for, but he would find out and let TSEA know.
The Consultant team asked that TSEA wait and review their report before making any judgment and even referenced that we might be “pleased with their recommendations”.
TSEA was told ACA will within the next couple of weeks submit their report to TDOC Commissioner Schofield. Once the report is complete, TSEA will request a copy of the report and will make a statement regarding the results of the report.
Please continue to monitor your email and the TSEA website for updates on this and other important issues for state employees.