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Tennessee: Audit blisters DOC, CCA, CMS et al.
State audit shows CCA not complying with prison contracts

September 13, 2003
By Duren Cheek
Staff Writer
and The Associated Press
The Tennessean

There have been numerous instances of noncompliance in contracts that the Corrections Corporation of America has with the Tennessee Department of Correction to run two Tennessee prisons, an audit by the state comptroller's office shows.

The audit, covering 1997-2002, found inadequately supervised outside contractors led to unqualified security and medical staff at prisons, numerous staff vacancies and spotty medical services for inmates.

It specifically examines contracts with Nashville-based CCA and two health-care providers, Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis and Mental Health Management Services of Vienna, Va.

All three companies repeatedly violated terms of their state contracts without any reprisal from Correction Department officials, the audit said.

CCA operates South Central Correctional Facility in Wayne County and Hardeman County Correctional facility.

''By allowing the contractor to fail to comply with agreed-upon terms without negative consequences, the department has not ensured that the state is getting the level of services it has paid for and that the citizens of the state, including the inmates and facility employees, are receiving the level and types of services deemed necessary by the state,'' the audit says.

In general, the audit said, CCA has been noncompliant in security staffing, medical staffing, training staff members and hiring staff members with the proper experience.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the findings are dated information, most of it from 2000 and 2001.

''All those issues, as far as I know, have been resolved to the satisfaction of the Department of Correction,'' he said.

Correction Department spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said the audit reinforces a lot that Commissioner Quenton White has identified as priorities for the department, such as strengthening the contract monitoring process.

Auditors found CCA was slow in filling vacant positions at South Central, and when it did, hired some employees without the required amount of experience. The company also used licensed professional nurses in shifts that required registered nurses, the audit said.

The training records of several correctional officers and administrative staff at Hardeman County were incomplete, according to the report. New correctional officers there must complete 120 hours of training and 40 hours of orientation, followed by 40 hours annually of in-service training.

''CCA has employees ranging from correctional officers to food service workers who have not received the required number of training hours,'' according to the audit.

Owen said, ''The report is not reflective of current practices and is not an indication of any sort of systemic issues.''

He said required staff positions were always filled, even if it meant overtime for employees.

The audit also found CCA violated its contract, and state law, by not buying prison uniforms from TRICOR, the state's prison industry program that employs inmates to make clothing and other items.

Because TRICOR is self-funded, a ''sharp decrease in expected revenues has extreme operational consequences for the agency,'' the audit reported.

Owen said CCA is purchasing the required uniforms from TRICOR but couldn't say why it wasn't doing so previously.

As for Correctional Medical Services, with a $26.6 million contract to provide medical care for Tennessee inmates, auditors found missing data on health records, no documentation of inmate medication and a lack of established treatment plans for inmates with special medical conditions.

The state's written response to the audit's findings on Correctional Medical Services said the department would soon rebid the medical contract with specific performance expectations.

Company spokeswoman Becky Vollmer said most of the audit findings were ''procedural in nature, and don't directly relate to patient health or safety.''

Correctional Medical Services was fined $8,000 in November 2002 and $1,250 in June 2003 for the violations after what the audit describes as ''multiple meetings and various memoranda were issued.''

Audit findings concerning Mental Health Management Services, paid $3.5 million to provide psychiatric services for inmates, include staff not working proposed hours or completing mandated training, missing health treatment plans and improperly written psychiatric orders. Department officials say they assessed the company $750 in March for the contract violations.

Mental Health Management Services President Steve Wheeler said his company does not discuss its contracts publicly ''out of respect to the agencies we serve.''

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