TN legislator 'concerned' about state prison records deleted - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

TN legislator 'concerned' about state prison records deleted

State Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon State Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon

A Tennessee senator says he has concerns about the deletion of state records by the Department of Correction first uncovered by the Channel 4 I-Team.

State Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, said he wants the agency to explain why it is deleting records first written as assaults on staff and inmates and then deemed as something else and erased.

"What I am concerned about is the deleting of records. I don't believe that the deleting of state records is the most prudent way of tapering the files, so to speak," Steven said.

The Channel 4 I-Team obtained some of the records before they were deleted.

Stevens sits on a committee that oversees all state agencies. It's the same committee that brought in TDOC officials in January to answer for the outrageous behavior of inmates first exposed by the Channel 4 I-Team.

The Channel 4 I-Team found a beauty pageant was allowed to happen inside a state prison, and two former wardens have gone on the record saying they believe the agency is deleting or reclassifying assaults to better improve the safety image of the prisons.

"I will definitely reach out to department staff regarding both stories," Stevens said.

The Channel 4 I-Team also obtained an email sent out to wardens from TDOC Assistant Commissioner Tony Parker, calling our stories "propaganda" and giving talking to points to address questions from staff.

Among the talking points: "We know that assaults occur in prison and we're not trying to deny that. Our effort is to get a more accurate reporting system and insure [sic] incidents are coded as they should be."

The former warden said even Gov. Bill Haslam is being misled.

The Channel 4 I-Team asked the governor about that Tuesday.

"These wardens don't believe you've been given the right number of assaults," said chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.

"I think the important thing is to make sure that we're all defining incidents in all the exact right way, and that's what I've asked the Department of Correction to follow up with me on," said Haslam.

Haslam was referring to a 2012 comptroller's office audit that urged the Department of Correction to clarify its policy on reporting incidents, writing that confusion on the policy could lead to inconsistent reporting of incidents.

In a prior statement to the Channel 4 I-Team, TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield said his agency isn't covering up assaults and that they are simply examining cases to make sure they are properly classified.

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