Former prison employee describes difficulties with therapeutic program

Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility is the state's newest and largest prison. (WSMV)

Octavious Taylor has a painful and incurable disease. It’s a bad combination when you’re locked up in prison.

Taylor’s fiancee, Larita Dowlen, said when he was transferred from a state-run facility to the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, he stopped getting his medicine for sickle cell anemia.

“He catches infections really easily. It gets to the point sometimes where he can’t even get out of bed. Excruciating pain,” Dowlen said.

Taylor documented a recent health crisis minute-by-minute in a grievance report.

Over a 24-hour period, Taylor claims he repeatedly asked to see a medical professional for pain. The report says he was refused more than once, told the staff was too busy, and told “unless he was bleeding or dying, it was not a medical emergency.”

When he finally saw a nurse 24 hours later, he got hot compresses and ibuprofen, nothing more.

“I’m actually afraid he’s going to die one day in that prison because they don’t give him the medical help he needs,” Dowlen said.

“No, it doesn’t surprise me,” said Jeannie Alexander, an advocate with No Exceptions. “I mean we’ve received stories of broken bones that are never set, stories of individuals with sickle cell, patients who can’t get their medication. Of course with Trousdale, we have the recent suit brought by prisoners with diabetes who can’t get their insulin shot.

The suit demands that all diabetics be transferred at once to a non-CoreCivic prison in Tennessee with adequate medical staff.

“Why do you want to spend money on health care? The point is to spend as little as possible to confine these people, and that’s the name of the game,” Alexander said.

But what happened at another CoreCivic prison in Tennessee may up the ante altogether.

The details are spelled out in two separate, but similar, letters from inmates. One of them also called Channel 4.

“I wrote you about Chris, you know, about him cutting his testicles off?” the inmate said.

The letter said that on the night of March 21, 2017, Christopher Hall decided the pain he was suffering was so unbearable, he had to do something of his own.

“He kept for four months trying to get medical treatment for them, and he showed them to me,” the caller said. “They had swelled up, looked like a softball, and they was blue.

“He was just in so much pain. And like I said, they was swelled up like 10 times bigger than they should have been,” he added.

The letter says, “Mr. Hall decided he couldn’t bear the pain any longer.”

Hall told the Channel 4 I-Team what he did and why.

“I asked him how long to see a doctor. They told me a couple weeks,” Hall said. “I put in a sick call. They never called me. I wait and I wait and I wait. This is the last straw, I’m hurting so bad in my belly.

“I’ve been trying to see a doctor for over five months. I just broke me a razor out, went up there and got me some thread, went in the shower, shaved a little bit and popped her out,” Hall said.

“He cut his testicles out, put them in a cup, and then took them to the nurse and handed them to her and told her, ‘Here you go. Now you ain’t got to worry about doing nothing,” the caller said.

Hall was bleeding so bad they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop.

“And they took him to Nashville and everything, but they was trying to keep it quiet here and everything,” the inmate said.

“They had me on psych ward lockdown. … They thought I was crazy, I hurt myself. I said I didn’t hurt myself, I relieved myself. I’ve been trying to see a doctor for five months,” Hall said.

“And they was saying he was suicidal and all that is what they’re blaming it on. Anybody’s going to kill themselves, you know, they’re not going to do that,” the inmate said.

This happened at South Central Correctional Facility.

“What the hell is going on?” Alexander asked. “There will be a time when this state will be ashamed at what’s happened behind prison walls.

“Let journalists in. Let politicians in. Let people go inside and freely speak. Believe your staff. Believe the prisoners who are housed in your facility. Start paying attention,” she added.

“This is the problem with the privatization of prisons, because no longer are you dealing with human lives. The humanitarian issue doesn’t matter, because who does the fiduciary duty run to? The stockholders, not the state, not the communities, not the citizens, not the staff. It’s stockholders.”

After learning of this incident, the I-Team reached out to CoreCivic. Our specific inquiry about this mutilation, made months ago, has yet to be addressed.

Many families have asked the I-Team what they can do to bring their complaints and concerns to light.

CoreCivic is under contract by the state. Taxpayers are sending millions to the firm to provide services to incarcerated Tennesseans. The governor and lawmakers approved the deal.

CoreCivic’s contract in Trousdale County isn’t set to expire until 2018.

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