MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- An audit from the Tennessee Department of Corrections says leaders must improve their oversight at the state’s prisons- including Northeast Correctional Facility (NECX) in Mountain City.
The state found failures by TDOC leadership affected the state’s ability to operate safe and secure prisons.
The 200 plus page state audit report references NECX 93 times. It cites four so-called critical findings in 2019 alone. A top concern- accurate and timely record-keeping.
State senator Jon Lundberg’s district includes the Northeast Correctional Complex which houses 300 inmates. An additional 180 inmates are housed at an annex facility in Carter county.
“Someone and obviously in supervisory roles are just being careless and if they’re being careless at that level, it raises concerns on what other level somebody may be careless on,” says Lundberg
June 11th, 2019- auditors say a NECX staff member left a box containing confidential employee and inmate health information in an open area.
“If there are poorly kept records especially when you have it done in one isolated area, but statewide then I think we have a cultural problem when it comes to administration,” said Lundberg.
The audit reveals 485 incidents over a 2 year period at Northeast Correctional Facility involving serious risk to the facility or community – the 6th highest in the state.
“We have guards that are working very long shifts and that’s not necessarily conducive,” says Lundberg.
The Department of Corrections gives itself high marks for management of the Mountain City Prison. But the audit says the state’s system is skewed and needs reform.
A spokesperson says TDOC is committed to improvement.
The Department of Correction appreciates the work of the Comptroller’s Office audit staff and the thoroughness of the report. We have already addressed, or are in the process of addressing the issues raised in the report which includes, but is not limited to, enhanced staff training and revision of department policy and procedures. Although the Department concurs, or concurs in part, with all of the findings referenced in the Comptroller’s report, we maintain that the TDOC operates safe and secure prisons and provides effective community supervision. The majority of the findings can be attributed to technology challenges, delayed reporting, and the staff shortages that our state, like many others, currently experience. It is important to note that the department is certified by the Department of Justice for PREA compliance, fully accredited by the American Correctional Association, and many of our processes and protocols exceed national standards. Nevertheless, the department recognizes and is committed to improving our processes and procedures as well as enhancing our own internal auditing processes as recommended by the Comptroller that will help the TDOC be a better and more efficient department. We recognize and appreciate that the State’s external auditing function brings valuable, third-party insight. Like other law enforcement agencies, our employees work extremely hard, day in and day out, to protect the public while facing increasingly difficult challenges. We will address the specific findings during Monday’s hearing. The citizens of Tennessee can rest assured that the Tennessee Department of Correction will not compromise public safety and will do everything within our power to ensure that the public, our employees, and the offenders under our supervision are protected.Robert Reburn, TDOC East Tennessee Region Public Information Officer
Senator Lundberg says lawmakers will be acting on the audit.
“We’ll look across the department of corrections- what they’re doing, they’re operation, their management, and leadership without question,” says Lundberg.
A committee of the Tennessee General Assembly will view the audit mid-January with a public hearing taking place Monday, Jan. 13th in Nashville.
You can view the full audit here.
This audit also comes six months after three former employees of NECX were arrested.
Correctional Captain Donnie Henson was indicted on two counts of tampering with evidence and two counts of official misconduct.
Former Associate Warden Freddie Roark was indicted for one count of tampering with evidence and one count of official misconduct.
In a separate and unrelated investigation, former NECX employee Shannon Clark was arrested and charged with official misconduct and introducing drugs or contraband into a penal facility