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Article on problems with TN DOC cites PLN

Nashville Scene, Sept. 2, 2015.

Prisons Are Reforming In TDOC Head's Old Territory

POSTED BY  ON TUE, SEP 1, 2015 AT 3:42 PM

When Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Derrick Schofield to head of the Tennessee Department of Correction in January 2011, Schofield left the Georgia Department of Correction to take the job here.

And (believe it or not!) when Schofield ended his tenure at the GDOC — where he was assistant commissioner — prison populations peaked in the state, according to a Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform report. And inmates refused to perform their prison jobs because conditions were so bad in the prisons in December 2010.

A little less than a month after the inmate strike in Georgia's prisons, Schofield was ushered in by Haslam, who has stood by the department's head even after staffing shortages and safety issues amid overcrowding in the state's prisons.

Under Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who was elected right as Schofield left, Georgia is now undergoing complete prison reform. According to New Republic:

Overall, since he was elected at the end of 2010, Georgia’s incarcerated population dropped from an estimated 56,432 to 53,383 at the start of this year. That reduction virtually slashed the state’s backlog of inmates in county jails who were waiting to be transferred to a prison or probation detention center. Keeping inmates in local jails typically cost the state $20 million annually. Without the backlog, the cost associated with transferring inmates “plummeted to $40,720,” per the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform February 2015 report.

The same Criminal Justice Reform report said the first step toward reforming prisons in the state was the creation of the council who would go on to create the report itself: the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians, which was approved by the Georgia General Assembly in early 2011.

Oddly enough, a similar oversight group was done away with in Tennessee in 2012, a year after Schofield entered the picture. State House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick sponsored the 2012 bill that abolished the Tennessee General Assembly's Corrections Oversight Committee along with a few other similar committees. (McCormick recently told the Chattanooga Times Free Press he regretted that legislation.)

Alex Friedmann, associate director of nonprofit advocacy group the Human Rights Defense Fund, and Tennessee House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart have both called for the restoration of that oversight committee.

"When we did away with that committee, we did away with the expertise and the detailed look into our prison system," Stewart told reporters Monday at a press conference.

Stewart said that committee could be brought back through legislation in the next TGA session, which begins in January.




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