News4 Investigates: Mothers call for improved medical care for incarcerated loved ones

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 1:34 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) -The mothers of both incarcerated men and women are calling for improved treatment and healthcare for their loved ones.

In an exclusive interview with News4 Investigates, the mothers gathered around a table at the NAACP office, each with different stories, but a united mission: bringing awareness to what they feel is medical mistreatment behind bars.

“It ain’t just only me, it’s for all the parents that’s going through this,” Tamika McDonald, mother of Marquez Davis said.

Davis is currently serving time at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.

“My son was still a human being, Carla McClain said. It’s like no one cares.

McClain’s son, Dwayne Michael Moore, died in West Tennessee State Penitentiary last year, a facility operated by the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

On his death certificate, Moore’s cause of death is listed as “Asphyxia by Hanging.” His death certificate also labeled his manner of death a “suicide.”

Something McClain questions.

McClain says that her son never showed signs of suicidal thoughts. McClain also says that before he died, Moore told her something that still gives her chills to this day.

“He said, if they EVER tell you I killed myself, he said don’t you believe it,” McClain said.

McClain sent a letter to the TDOC, West Tennessee State Penitentiary and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, requesting a written report from TDOC about the circumstances leading up to her son’s death.

“It’s been six months now and they don’t care! That’s the bottom line. They do not care!!” McClain said.

The NAACP sent their own letter to Governor Bill Lee, telling him they’ve received numerous calls about beatings, lack of medical care and unsanitary conditions.

Complaints that News4 Investigates heard as well, even from former correctional officers at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, a private prison for men that is operated by Core Civic.

Both families and workers are calling for improvements.

“There needs to be a cleaning from the top to the bottom. In this correctional system, in the state of Tennessee. Because I guarantee you it is broken!” Dr. Pamela Harrison, NAACP Prison Chair said.

While Core Civic has provided written statements to our previous stories, News4 Investigates wanted to sit down with CEO Damon Hininger to discuss and address these concerns.

A spokesperson for Core Civic told News4 they will not accommodate our request for an in-person interview and would only welcome questions via email.

Dr. Harrison says since October, their office has received over 200 complaints. Dr. Harrison says they’re also hearing complaints female prison inmates at different facilities as well.

News4 Investigates spoke with inmate Latasha Hurtch over the phone.

“I’m in pain 24/7. I hurt so bad. Sometimes I hurt so bad where my body just locks up on its own,” Hutch said.

Hutch feels the prison system doesn’t care about their medical care. For years, Hurtch has been living in pain with Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis.

I just got immune to it, cause of the pain Tylenol can’t heal, and it’s a pain a narcotic can’t heal,” Hurtch said.

Hurtch says her calls for help were constantly ignored, while serving time at the Deborah K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center in Nashville, a facility operated by the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

“I filed a total of 17 grievances,” Hurtch said.

Hurtch’s mother, Charlotte Jennings, has been fighting to get the state’s attention.

“I feel helpless. I know how badly she needs help.” Jennings said.

“This is my only child. And there’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for her to keep her alive. Because she deserves to live, until God is ready for her to go,” Jennings said.

TDOC did offer to answer questions by email, but News4 Investigates wanted to meet with them directly as well to discuss the concerns and interview Department of Corrections Interim Commissioner Lisa Helton, but we were denied.

TDOC also said they cannot speak about inmate’s medical care.

News4 went to one of Governor Lee’s press conferences to ask him directly about prison medical complaints.

“We have a clear understanding and directive that we operate our state and directive that we operate our state prisons that is of the highest quality. Whenever this is an issue that needs to be looked at, we will look at it and make sure that the quality of our Tennessee prisons is as it should be,” Governor Lee said.

But Hurtch and Jennings say, they’re not seeing that.

“Somebody somewhere needs to hear the truth. And my friends, I’m watching these people die,” Hurtch said.

Jennings says she’s not asking for much, just decent care for her daughter and others with chronic illnesses.

“I know people in prison done bad things. I’m not disputing that. Some badder than others, but everybody’s a human being,” Jennings said.

Hurtch has now been transferred to another facility.

The mothers who sat down with News4 say they just want a listening ear, and for someone to give them answers.

“When your child goes into a Tennessee State Prison, you don’t know if they’re going to come back home. And that’s the reality of it,” McClain said.

The TDOC told News4 Investigates that the Department of Corrections Office of Investigation and Conduct conducted an investigation into Moore’s death and the West Tennessee Forensic Center conducted an autopsy. TDOC also says their investigative reports are not yet complete.

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