Charter Rights
Story Archives
Sign Our Guestbook
View Guestbook
Contact Capp @   or   Post Comments  CAPP Message Board   and  Any Upcoming Events

Tennessee: More on CCA et al audit.
Audit faults state prisons for low pay, laxity on contracts

Providers of medical services to inmates fail to fulfill obligations
By Tom Humphrey
The Knoxville News
September 14, 2003,1406,KNS_348_2257601,00.html

NASHVILLE - The state Department of Correction needs to do more to enforce contract provisions with private companies and prepare inmates for release into society, a state audit says.

The audit of the department by the state comptroller's office also says low pay is a major cause for high turnover among prison guards and says officials trying to save money paid $275,000 for a faulty prison fence.

The audit reviewed operations in 2002 and gave the department mostly good marks.

A major exception was a failure to penalize three companies - Correction Corporation of America, Correctional Medical Services and Mental Health Management - that did not comply with some provisions of contracts, the audit says.

CCA houses state inmates at two prisons - South Central Correctional Facility in Wayne County and Hardeman County Correctional Facility.

The audit says there were "numerous instances" at both facilities of failure to comply with contract provisions dealing with the number of security staff on duty, the training and qualifications of staff and the medical treatment provided to inmates.

The audit says: "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 service 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 the department should have assessed "liquidated damages" against the company but provides no estimate of what the financial penalty should be.

Auditors also said it appears from a review of invoices that CCA is not buying at least half of the inmate uniforms it uses from the state's prison industries program, as required by contract.

Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis, Mo., has had a contract to provide medical treatment to prisoners at several state facilities since July 2001, but has been "noncompliant in many areas," the audit says. Examples included failure to provide as many doctors, dentists and nurses as required.

Mental Health Management of Vienna, Va., which contracted to provide mental health treatment to inmates, had similar shortcomings, the audit says. The company's noncompliance "contributed to" the Northeast Correctional Complex failing an inspection, auditors said.

In an official response, the department said it is taking steps to resolve the problems and plans to re-bid the medical contract, including a more specific provision on dealing with liquidated damages.

The department said it assessed $750 in damages against Mental Health Management in March 2003. Correctional Medical Services was assessed $8,000 in November 2002 and $1,250 in June 2003.

Other findings include:

Despite improvements in programs aimed at preparing inmates for release, such efforts "still appear insufficient, given the number of inmates who exit the system each year and the problems inmates face when attempting to readjust to life outside."
Using federal funds obtained in November 2002, the department launched a program called "Tennessee Bridges" that is designed to serve 300 inmates preparing for release; 46 inmates had been enrolled by July of this year, the audit says.

In the 10-month period ending in May 2003, the department released 4,054 inmates from state prisons and 3,253 state prisoners from local jails that were holding them under contract with the state.

There was a 28 percent turnover rate last year among correctional officers, up slightly from the year before, with low pay cited by departing officers as the most common reason for quitting. Starting pay for a correction officer is $20,100 - almost $1,600 less than the average for Southeastern states and $3,357 less than the average paid county jail guards in seven Middle Tennessee counties that auditors used for comparison.
The turnover rate ranged from a high of 69 percent at Nashville's Tennessee Prison for Women to 7 percent at the Wayne County Boot Camp.

A security fence system at West Tennessee State Prison, installed in 1999 at a cost of $275,927 with a supposed 10-year life span, had to be replaced last year. The system included infrared detection devices. The state attorney general's office "decided it was not cost-effective to seek restitution" from the seller.
Tom Humphrey may be reached at 615-242-7782.

| Post Any Upcoming Events | Top of Page | Home Page | Post Comments on Message Board |