More than two dozen people have died of overdoses behind bars in Tennessee this year. Twelve of those deaths happened in privately operated prisons, run by Brentwood-based CoreCivic.
CoreCivic houses less than half of the state’s prison population and has had a proportionate share of the overdose deaths this year. But the company, which manages prisons across the country, has been hit with several lawsuits over the years alleging insufficient care.
One of the most recent details the overdose deaths of two men.
At 37 years old, Joshua William’s health was deteriorating. Photos taken inside South Central Correctional Facility with a contraband cell phone show his legs and feet covered in reddish-purple splotches from an infection.
His parents contacted prison officials, saying Williams was in pain and needed medical care.
“We do not want a lawsuit and money after he is dead,” his mom wrote in an email, included in the lawsuit. “We want you to take care of our son now.”
But Williams died a few days later. His parents say he likely took fentanyl to alleviate his pain, and overdosed.
Chriteris Allen was 22 when he died of a fentanyl overdose inside Whiteville Correctional Facility. This year so far, five people have overdosed inside that same facility.
The lawsuit alleges that CoreCivic guards didn’t find his body for hours. It says that the lack of cell checks was because they were understaffed. His mother wonders if the overdose could have been reversed, had Allen been found sooner.
Williams and Allen were among the 49 people who died of overdoses while incarcerated in Tennessee last year. Nearly all of them were from the highly potent opioid, fentanyl.
CoreCivic says it cannot comment on current litigation but adds that the safety of the people incarcerated at their facilities is a priority.