NASHVILLE (WSMV) - A longtime criminal justice advocate has been arrested after fraudulently entering the newly-constructed Downtown Detention Center (DDC) Saturday, possessing schematics about the interior of the jail and attempting to chew them up when caught.

Sheriff Daron Hall says 50-year-old Alex Friedmann, who is the managing editor of the non-profit Prison Legal News, allegedly entered the DDC on at least four different occasions under false pretenses since December 26th.

Alex Friedmann arrested

Alex Friedmann in custody

They say Friedmann was seen on surveillance video on December 30th, 2019, dressed like a construction worker in a yellow vest and dust mask.

A sheriff's department spokeswoman confirms to News4 Investigates that it is exactly the same make and model of vests used by construction workers on the jail site.

Friedmann was then seen spray painting around a key control room door and stealing a key ring. 

Friedmann then reportedly returned to the DDC two hours later and replaced the key ring, but with two keys missing. 

"Mr. Friedmann is a smart man. He knew exactly what he was doing with the keys. This isn't some accident," Hall said.

Sheriff Hall says on Saturday around 1 p.m., deputies recognized the individual, who was later revealed as Friedmann, entering the DDC again. He was detained in an area and was found carrying a cooler filled with burglary tools including bolt cutters and schematics of the DDC. 

According to officials, he was seen on video trying to destroy the schematics by "ripping it and chewing it up." 

"The seriousness of Mr. Friedmann's charges cannot be ignored. His actions have placed the safety and security of our entire community in peril, not to mention DCSO staff and inmates," Hall said. 

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's department tells News4 Investigates that 85 locks may now have to be replaced.

News4 Investigates reached Friedmann by phone today, and he said on advice from his attorney, he could not elaborate as to what he was doing.

Friedmann's editor at Prison Legal News, Paul Wright, said he had no idea what Friedmann was doing at the jail, but praised his knowledge of incarceration issues.

"I don't think he's exaggerating when I say he's probably the most knowledgeable person about prisons and jails in Tennessee," Wright said.

A former inmate himself, Friedmann has repeatedly been interviewed by News4 Investigates for his advocacy for safer prisons.

Friedmann is currently free on bond. He is scheduled to be in court in February. 


Davidson Co. Sheriff to replace 1800 locks in new jail before opening is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

Content Producer

Sydney is a Pennsylvania native who joined the News4 team in May 2019 as a Content Producer. She graduated from Bloomsburg University, "Go Huskies!" Send her news tips and sports/entertainment ideas at or on Twitter @sydneywaricktv.

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