Three men incarcerated at a private prison about 50 miles outside Nashville have been charged with crimes — some as serious as murder. All three were indicted last week and have been transferred to Riverbend Maximum Security Prison.
The series of indictments is an example of accountability for a facility that’s been criticized for high levels of violence. The victims include Aaron Adams, who was killed at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center on Dec. 17. About a month later, an employee was attacked, and another month after that, Terry Deshawn Childress was rushed to the hospital after a beating. He died from his wounds.
CoreCivic, which operates the facility, has been sanctioned by the state comptroller for staffing shortages and unsafe conditions. Its facilities account for more than 80% of prison homicides in Tennessee, though they house just about a third of the state’s prisoners.
Loved ones and activists have raised concerns about the safety of the prison and even created a Facebook page dedicated to shutting it down. But last month, the Trousdale County Commission voted unanimously to renew its contract with CoreCivic for another five years.
CoreCivic says its administrators cooperated fully with the law enforcement investigation and has maintained that its staffing levels meet contract guidelines. However, the company, which is based is Brentwood, has declined repeatedly to share staffing numbers with WPLN News.
When questioned about the disproportionate number of homicides at CoreCivic prisons earlier this year, a spokesperson said the company’s Tennessee facilities hold “a higher concentration of inmates convicted of murder and other violent crimes.” The Tennessee Department of Correction, however, said the corporation houses only people who are authorized to live in minimum or medium custody.
District Attorney Jason Lawson of Trousdale County signed the indictments in quick succession last week. They included few details about the specifics of the case and accompanying documents are being kept under seal, according to the court clerk’s office.
The man charged with assault, reckless endangerment and possession of a weapon in a penal institution for beating a staffer in January was serving time for first-degree murder, according to his state prison profile. However, the men charged with the two most recent homicides at the facility had been incarcerated for less violent crimes: kidnapping and aggravated assault in one case and evading arrest in the other.
But now that they’re facing more serious charges, all three men have been moved to Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, the state’s most secure correctional facility. None of the 17 homicides at state prisons in the past five years occurred at Riverbend.