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Haslam Creates Task Force on Sentencing, Recidivism

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; August 14, 2014:

Group to develop legislative and policy recommendations

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the formation of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism as part of the administration’s overall effort to reduce crime and improve public safety.

In June, the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet announced a partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice to review sentencing and correction policies and practices. The creation of a task force is the next step in that collaboration.

“We have put a strong emphasis on addressing some of our state’s toughest safety challenges head on, and the Public Safety Subcabinet is doing great work,” Haslam said. “This task force is a next step in making sure we have a comprehensive approach to public safety in Tennessee. I am grateful to the Tennesseans who have agreed to dedicate their time to these issues, and I look forward to their recommendations.”

Members of the task force include:

  • John Campbell, criminal court judge, Memphis
  • John DeBerry, state representative, Memphis
  • James Dunn, district attorney general, 4th judicial district
  • Tim Fuller, sheriff, Franklin County
  • Bill Gibbons, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
  • Mark Gwyn, director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Kim Helper, district attorney general, 21st judicial district
  • Torry Johnson, district attorney general (retired), Nashville
  • Brian Kelsey, state senator, Germantown
  • William Lamberth, state representative, Cottontown
  • Linda Leathers, chief executive officer, The Next Door
  • William B. Lee, chief executive officer, Lee Company of Tennessee
  • Jon Lundberg, state representative, Bristol
  • Mark Luttrell, mayor, Shelby County
  • Becky Duncan Massey, state senator, Knoxville
  • Gerald Melton, public defender, 16th judicial district
  • Richard Montgomery, chairman, Tennessee Board of Parole
  • Seth Norman, criminal court judge, Nashville
  • Bill Oldham, sheriff, Shelby County
  • David Rausch, chief of police, Knoxville
  • Derrick Schofield, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Correction
  • John Stevens, state senator, Huntingdon
  • Blair Taylor, president, Memphis Tomorrow
  • D. Kelly Thomas, court of criminal appeals judge, Knoxville
  • Doug Varney, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
  • Amy Weirich, district attorney general, Shelby County
  • Verna Wyatt, executive director, Tennessee Voices for Victims

The current sentencing structure in Tennessee has been in place for more than 20 years. An examination will ensure that the structure is in line with the variety and severity of criminal behavior. Establishing an effective set of sentencing laws can resolve inconsistencies and avoid discrepancies that compromise public safety.

The task force will receive assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections. Vera staff will conduct data and policy analysis; identify expertise and resources to support the work of the task force; facilitate meetings and assist in the development of the task force recommendations.

The Vera Institute of Justice is a national, independent, non-partisan justice policy and research organization based in New York. Vera has decades of experience partnering with state and local governments across the United States to improve justice systems.

The task force will submit its recommendations to the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet by June 2015.

The subcabinet was created by Haslam in 2011 and launched a multi-year public safety action plan in 2012. The group includes commissioners of the departments of Safety and Homeland Security, Correction, Mental Health, Children’s Services, Health and Military, along with the chairman of the Tennessee Board of Parole, directors of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, Office of Criminal Justice Programs, Law Enforcement Training Academy and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

TDOC Introduces Automated Fee Collections

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Corrections; July 5, 2013:

NASHVILLE – The Department of Correction has launched an automated fee collection system to streamline services and enhance accountability. Offenders on probation or parole are now able to pay their supervision and other fees online, through wire transfer, by sending money orders to JPay, or by phone. Family and friends of inmates can also make deposits into trust fund accounts through the automated system.

“As part of the top to bottom review of our agency, we determined an automated system would increase efficiency and free up our probation/parole officers to spend more time in the community supervising offenders,” Commissioner Derrick Schofield said. “Our commitment is to enhance public safety by ensuring we utilize the best methods available to add accountability to the system. A number of offenders who want to succeed and complete their probation or parole often struggle getting to our offices to pay their fees, particularly in areas where public transportation is unavailable. This method will result in fewer arrests for failure to pay,” Schofield said.

The vendor, JPay, is providing the service at no cost to the state. A convenience fee is applied to online, wire transfer, and phone payments. The free option still exists for those who prefer to purchase and mail money orders. For more information visit our website at www.tn.gov/correction.

State Seeks ‘Solid Alternatives’ to Incarceration

Longer sentences, rising admissions to state prisons and a slowing in the number of inmates released are contributing to increased prison costs, the state’s top corrections department official said.

One way the state is trying to combat those trends is by developing “solid alternatives to sending somebody to prison,” like drug courts and day-reporting centers, Commissioner Derrick Schofield said during a state budget hearing earlier this month.

Gov. Bill Haslam pressed state prison officials for more detail on why the state’s cost of overseeing inmates is increasing.

“When we have responsibility for an offender, we have responsibility for them,” Haslam said. “I’m just trying to come back and figure out what’s driving that from a bigger picture. Are there other things we can and should be doing as a state?”

In January a new state facility set up to house 1,500 inmates is set to open in Bledsoe County. The prison is an expansion of the Southeastern Tennessee State Regional Correctional Facility.

The Department of Correction is responsible for 107,960 offenders, roughly the population of Murfreesboro, Schofield said. About 30,000 of those people are in prison. The remainder are on probation or parole or under community supervision.

To view other state budget hearings, click here.

DOC Assistant Commissioner Resigns, Agency Calls for Investigation into Dead Parolee Supervision

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Corrections; Oct. 4, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, TN – Commissioner Derrick Schofield has directed the Department of Correction’s Office of Investigation and Compliance to conduct a thorough investigation into performance audit findings related to probation and parole supervision of deceased offenders. Upon conclusion of the investigation follow up information will be provided.

In a related matter, following Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing, Assistant Commissioner Gary Tullock submitted his resignation, effective immediately.

“This is about accountability and our commitment to the public. We want the citizens of Tennessee to have full confidence in our ability to supervise offenders,” said Commissioner Schofield. “We will continue to work diligently to ensure we will not compromise public safety when it comes the supervision of felony offenders.”

 

State Monitoring of Dead Parolees Draws Lawmakers’ Ire

Legislators hammered corrections and parole officials Wednesday for running a system that allowed officers to waste time and tax dollars “monitoring” 82 dead criminal offenders. The revelation raises many questions, among them is how closely tabs are being kept on former inmates who’re actually still among the living, they said.

“Its troubling enough to find out that we have employees who are supervising dead people. But those dead people aren’t exactly a menace to society today,” said outgoing Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, during the Government Operations joint subcommittee on Capitol Hill.

“So my greater concern is what about the employees who are claiming to supervise people who are a threat to society, who are a menace to society. How do we know how much of this is taking place, that we have people who are claiming to check on folks and they’re not actually doing that?” he said.

The issue, one of eight highlighted in a damning state report released this week, prompted lawmakers to set a one-year deadline for the state Department of Correction and the Board of Probation and Parole to fix the problems. Pending approval from the Legislature, both agencies will be under the microscope of auditors in a year with a report due back to the Legislature in 2014.

But state officials say the timeframe is not realistic.

“It would take Superman to do that, and we don’t have Superman. He’s a great commissioner, but he’s not Superman,” Charles Traughber, chairman of the Board of Probation and Parole, said of DOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield, whose department is taking over monitoring parolees. Previously, the probation board did that.

The findings were “egregious” and “of such a magnitude that they require an immediate and urgent response,” Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said.

The state report found that Probation and Parole Board workers were still checking in on parolees who had died, some 19 years ago. The report by the Comptroller’s office also found that 80 percent of GPS-monitored offender alarms “appear unmonitored.”

Assistant Correction Commissioner Gary Tullock said the agency fired two parole officers responsible for much of the faulty reporting on dead offenders, but Schofield said other employees likely contributed to the high number of erroneous reports.

According to the Department of Correction, the state monitors 13,000 offenders on parole and 56,000 people on probation. The state also supervises 7,500 people in community correction, a program that keeps less violent offenders out of prisons.

Overall, that’s 3,175 more offenders under state observation this year than last year, though the number of parole officers has not increased, Tullock said.

However, Schofield said it’s too early to say whether he’ll ask the governor to add to his department’s yearly budget.

“The first thing we say is we’re short-staffed. If you look at and examine how we supervise and how we do things, there’s always opportunities to find resources. If we need those resources, we will present that to the governor,” he told reporters.

Haslam Appoints Georgia Corrections Official to Top DOC Post

Press Release from Gov.-elect Bill Haslam; Jan. 7, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Haslam today announced Georgia Department of Corrections Assistant Commissioner and Chief of Staff Derrick Schofield as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Schofield will oversee the state’s corrections system comprised of 14 prisons, more than 20,000 inmates of varying needs and more than 5,000 employees.

“I’m incredibly pleased that someone of Derrick’s talent has agreed to be a part of my team,” Haslam said. “Housing and rehabilitating our state prisoners is an enormous responsibility, and I believe Derrick is the right man for this important job.”

Schofield was named Georgia Assistant Commissioner of Corrections in 2009 and has 19 years total experience in the field working his way up and gaining more and more responsibility in Georgia Corrections as his career progressed.

“I’m honored and humbled to come to the great state of Tennessee and to serve with Gov.-elect Haslam,” Schofield said. “I look forward to having a long-term relationship with the department and with Tennesseans.”

Schofield is a native Georgian and received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Fort Valley State University. He then spent eight years with the U.S. Army and reached the rank of Captain. He also has a master’s degree in Public Administration from Georgia’s Law Enforcement Command College and Columbus State University.

Schofield, 50, and his wife of 20 years, LaTrese, have three children.

For more information, please visit www.billhaslam.org.