Tennessee’s privately run prisons have experienced twice as many inmate homicides compared to state-run facilities.
That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Human Rights Defense Center, a prisoner advocacy group. The organization says the deaths are a result of how Brentwood-based CoreCivic operates its prisons.
Since 2014 there have been 10 murders in CoreCivic’s Tennessee prisons. Three of them happened this year, including one at the newest facility in Trousdale County.
Meanwhile, prisons run by the Tennessee Department of Correction have seen half the number of homicides. This, despite the fact that the state is in charge of a larger population of prisoners.
Alex Friedmann is a former prisoner and the associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, which investigated the homicides. He said prisons are controlled environments.
“So, for homicides to occur in prisons indicates a breakdown in safety and security," Friedmann told reporters outside of CoreCivic Wednesday.
But Amanda Gilchrist, a spokeswoman with CoreCivic, questioned the methodology used in the report.
She says it doesn’t take into consideration that the CoreCivic facilities hold more inmates convicted of murder, making them more vulnerable to violence.
"The portrayal of this information is false and misleading, and presenting it in a way that suggests it is valid or a reliable research-based comparison presents our company and our people in a false light," Gilchrist told WPLN in an email. "The bottom line is that even one death in our facilities is too many, and we're always working to improve."
Advocates call for abolition of private prisons
At a press conference Wednesday, family of dead prisoners and advocates said it is imperative the state do away with its partnership with CoreCivic.
Jeannie Alexander, director of No Exceptions Prison Collective, questioned the company's business model.
"These facilities are chronically understaffed, they are exceedingly violent and this seems to be the business model for CoreCivic to make a profit," Alexander said. "CoreCivic has proven that they cannot run their facilities. The only people they are accountable to are their shareholders."