TDOC commissioner answers questions after audit - WSMV News 4

TDOC commissioner answers questions after audit

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TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker appeared at the hearing on Wednesday. (WSMV) TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker appeared at the hearing on Wednesday. (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A scathing audit released Tuesday pointed out severe staff shortages and incomplete record keeping at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.

Wednesday, Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker was grilled about that and more by some state lawmakers.

The auditors went line by line, explaining every black mark given to Core Civic.

To determine staffing at the Trousdale prison, they needed to see daily shift rosters.

“We made it specifically clear we wanted the actual rosters of the day,” said Vincent Finamore with the comptroller’s office.

Some of that paperwork was completely blank. It was only after the comptroller left that Core Civic tried to submit new pages.

“What I was told, they attempted to give the rosters to the auditors. And at that time, the auditors told them it was not appropriate to take the rosters,” Parker said.

Parker answered to the committee on Wednesday, not Core Civic, the company that runs the facility. Much of what he said did not satisfy the group.

In four facilities across the state, Core Civic is now responsible for about a third of all people incarcerated in Tennessee.

The News 4 I-Team has reported extensively on problems and complaints at Trousdale Turner, including violence, alleged extortion and gangs.

Wednesday, the wife of a man locked up for 25 years in state facilities said his sudden transfer to Trousdale Turner last year has been catastrophic.

“The taxpayers of this state should be livid,” said Casey Wilson, the inmate’s wife.

The hearing that was scheduled for 30 minutes went two hours, and it’s still not over for TDOC or Core Civic. The committee will be back in a month to continue the conversation.

It’s a given TDOC will continue to operate, but the fuse has once again been lit in the debate over private prisons in Tennessee.

“Twenty years running, it’s the same vendor creating the same problems,” said Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville.

TDOC will be back before the committee on Dec. 12. Core Civic has been told to be ready to answer questions as well.

The I-Team asked representatives of Core Civic whether they had any comment on the testimony. They said their statement issued Tuesday stands:

This report goes back to July 2014 and, as we’ve acknowledged previously, there were challenges with bringing the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center up to full speed after its opening. We’ve worked hard to address the challenges we’ve faced, and while we still have work to do, we are making progress.

For example, we’ve significantly increased pay to attract and retain employees, with the starting salary at Trousdale now more than $16.00 per hour. We’re also offering immediate signing bonuses and relocation bonuses to make sure we’re an attractive option in a competitive Tennessee labor market.

TDOC recently conducted a follow up audit at Trousdale Turner and while we are still awaiting the final report findings, we are encouraged by the initial feedback and look forward to its release.

We appreciate the strong oversight by our government partners and remain committed to operating safe, secure facilities with high-quality reentry programming.

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