After working three straight 16-hour days recently, Billy Stewart doesn’t remember driving home from his job as a Nashville prison officer, The Tennessean reports. He wasn’t officially forced to stay for all of that time, but he said he felt it was a “necessity” and he was “obligated” to fill the position because it requires specialized training that others who were available did not have. Officer Colton Smith is still taking medicine to ensure the urine that was thrown in his face by an inmate months ago doesn’t give him hepatitis. These problems were some of the many issues that brought officers yesterday to the Tennessee statehouse at an event called “Occupy Corrections.”
The officers came a few days after Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield testified that there are some vacancies at several prisons, but argued that work problems at state prisons are isolated and the state is working to address them. Schofield said violence is down across the state, and denied officers are told to not classify incidents as assaults to artificially decrease the numbers reported by the department. Schofield and others in the administration aren’t telling the truth about violence in the prisons and other problems, officers said yesterday. Staffing shortages are causing many officers to work extended hours on multiple days. Officers said they are either asked to work longer hours on multiple days, or feel they would be leaving fellow officers in a dangerous position if they do not work needed shifts.