Top lawmakers are putting the Tennessee Department of Correction under greater scrutiny because of an escape yesterday from the same prison where eight inmates were hospitalized last week after multiple stabbings, The Tennessean reports. Speaker Beth Harwell called the incidents “concerning.” House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said without changes to how correctional officers are scheduled and paid, the issues plaguing Tennessee prisons won’t improve. The incidents occurred amid a severe manpower shortage after the state switched correctional officers from a traditional 40-hour workweek to save overtime costs.
The incidents “are just the beginning of the problems we’re going to see if we don’t do something about the staffing situation at our prisons. People’s lives are in danger,” Fitzhugh said. “Until we reverse this terrible 28-day schedule and do something about wages, we’re going to continue to lose guards and end up with our prisons back under federal control.” Yesterday an inmate walked away while on a work detail outside of the prison. He was captured last night. Last Friday, three inmates were stabbed at one prison and an additional eight were injured in multiple stabbings at another. There have been reports of correctional officers, tired after working 16 hours straight, getting into auto accidents.