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Tennessee CoreCivic Prison Guard Indicted for Beating Unresisting Prisoner, Attempting Cover-up

by Harold Hempstead

On September 27, 2021, a three-count indictment was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, accusing a former guard at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville of violating a prisoner’s civil rights and obstructing justice by attempting to cover up his crime. The prison is operated by private, for-profit CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.

The former guard, 42-year-old Kenan Lister, was a Supervising Officer and Security Threat Group Coordinator when he allegedly assaulted a prisoner who was not resisting on August 30, 2019. The prisoner, identified as R.V., was sitting in a holding cell when Lister allegedly punched him in the head, knocking him to the ground, where he proceeded to kick, punch, and strike R.V. multiple times in the head, chest, and torso.

After he finished assaulting R.V., Lister also allegedly refused to make necessary notifications for him to receive medical care, knowing that R.V. had serious medical needs stemming from injuries sustained during the assault.

Then, in an attempt to cover up his unlawful conduct, Lister submitted a false incident report omitting that he kicked, punched, and struck R.V. multiple times.

In counts one and two, Lister was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 242, willfully depriving R.V. of his Constitution right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by (1) physically assaulting R.V, and (2) willfully failing to provide R.V. with medical care, or notify medical professionals to do so. In count three, Lister was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1519 by knowingly falsifying a document with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the FBI’s investigation into his criminal conduct. Lister did this by omitting from his August 30, 2019, Trousdale Incident Statement that he kicked, punched, and struck R.V. multiple times.

Lister, a Clarksville resident, was arrested at his home by FBI agents on the same day he was indicted.

Ryan Gustin, Director of Public Affairs for CoreCivic, the private firm that operates the prison, insisted that “[t]he safety of our staff and the inmates entrusted to our care is our top priority, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of violence against inmates.”

“The employee in question was terminated immediately following the incident,” he promised, “and we cooperated fully with the investigation.”

According to a report by Clarksville Now, “if convicted, Lister faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the civil rights charges and up to 20 years in prison for the obstruction charge, as well as a maximum of three years of supervised release and a fine up to $250,000.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Beth Myers and Civil Rights Division Attorney Michael J. Songer. See: United States v. Lister, USDC (M.D.Tn.), Case No. 3:21-cr-00216. 

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Related legal case

United States v. Lister