FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Rep. John Ray Clemmons
June 16, 2017
Nashville, TN – In response to the news of a widespread scabies outbreak at the CCA managed Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility that has harmed over 300 people, including courthouse officials, lawyers, Metro employees and inmates, state Representative John Ray Clemmons delivered a letter to the Mayor, Vice Mayor and Metropolitan Council members calling on them to take immediate action by forming a special committee to investigate and question relevant parties and thoroughly evaluate whether CCA has materially breached its contract with Metro.
“The perils of privatization of our penal system are many, and this scabies outbreak is only the latest in a series of harmful events that have transpired across our state and country in these privately run facilities,” said state Rep. John Ray Clemmons. “Again, we are faced with unfortunate circumstances most likely caused by profits being made a higher priority than public safety. It is now incumbent upon Metro to get to the bottom of this and hold the appropriate parties accountable.”
The text of Rep. Clemmons’ letter is as follows:
Dear Mayor Barry, Vice Mayor Briley, and Councilmembers,
I send this correspondence concerning the above-referenced matter for two reasons. First, I wish to convey my sincere concern for the lawyers, judicial staff and Metro employees in your charge, as well as the inmates, who have been afflicted by the scabies outbreak resulting from an infestation at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility. Second, I write to respectfully request that you take immediate action in response to this harmful outbreak and call for or form a special study committee within the Metro Council to conduct a thorough review of Metro’s contract with CCA and hold public hearings during which the contract monitor, CCA employees and officials, and relevant persons from the Metro health department are invited to appear for testimony and questioning.
The recent events that have caused harm to at least 16 Metro employees and approximately 320 inmates appear to be, by all reports, the direct result of clear negligence by CCA, the private prison corporation with which Metro contracts to manage and operate the 1348 bed facility. Based on reports, this scabies issue arose as early as January of this year, and appropriate steps were not taken to prevent the outbreak from spreading like wildfire beyond the prison walls and harming hundreds inside and out. As you are well aware, this is only the latest incident in a consistent pattern of alleged failures and negligent conduct by CCA with respect to the provision of appropriate safety and health care services at CCA facilities nationwide, including the Metro Detention Facility.
While I understand that certain council members have or will be conducting hearings on related issues, the current situation presents you with an opportunity to take a more comprehensive look at the contract and Metro’s long-term relationship with CCA. Given the contractual privity here, it is appropriate for Metro to take all reasonable and necessary steps to investigate and make a good faith effort to determine: 1) whether there has been a material breach of the contract; 2) whether the current terms of the contract are sufficient to adequately protect Metro employees, lawyers, inmates, and anyone else who enters the facility or comes into contact with inmates; 3) whether appropriate types and levels of health care services and providers are available to inmates; 4) whether CCA is using its multi-step grievance process and/or the Prison Litigation Reform Act to quash legitimate complaints from inmates and circumvent any reporting requirements of the contract; and, 5) any other issue that may be of legitimate concern to the public.
I share the concerns of many, including Public Defender Dawn Deaner and Judge Melissa Blackburn, both of whom have previously, publicly expressed their heartfelt personal opinions on this topic. The reckless disregard for people’s health and well-being displayed in this instance is sickening and unbecoming a state actor such as CCA. It is imperative that the systematic issues that have arisen time and time again with this private prison corporation be addressed. As a Metro official, you are uniquely positioned and have a tremendous opportunity to do whatever is appropriate and necessary within your jurisdiction at this time.
Thank you, in advance, for your consideration of this request. I know you share my concerns and trust that you will act in the best interest of our city and your fellow residents. Should you require my assistance or that of the state on this or any other matter, I remain available to you at all times.
John Ray Clemmons