Two months before a former Tennessee prison nurse allegedly shot and killed a guard to free her inmate husband, state correction officials drafted a report calling for an aggressive effort to combat “the rising number of employee/inmate relationships,” reports the Tennessean. The June 1 report sought stiffer criminal penalties for employees who engage in relationships with prisoners, expanded training about the dangers of fraternization, and an anonymous tip line for inmates and staff to report improper conduct.
Warden Reuben Hodge, chairman of the committee that produced the report, said the measures will reduce the chances of similar incidents. Tennessee is among 14 states where sexual contact between inmates and guards is not a felony. In 2003 and 2004, there were 74 cases of inappropriate relationships that led to some kind of discipline against an employee. The number of employees who were disciplined was higher than correction officials would like, but small compared with the more than 5,000 staff and 20,000 inmates. Said Acting Corrections Commissioner Gayle Ray: “corrections employees are the most underrated employees in the U.S.,” she said. “Most people have a negative perception of them. In the movies, they’re always portrayed as sadistic, retarded people.”