House Democratic Caucus Chairman Calls for Investigation Into Arrest of Corrections Dept Whistleblower

Press release from the Democratic Caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 2015:

NASHVILLE- Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart spoke out today against what appears to be unprecedented intimidation tactics employed by State Government and called on Governor Haslam to personally supervise an investigation into those tactics.

“Two weeks ago, we were shown a shocking video of a prisoner casually beating a prison guard, apparently aware that no back up would be present. Now we hear that a corrections officer was arrested at her home, strip searched, handcuffed and taken to jail on the charge that she used a cell phone to record the video of the brutal beating – a video that should be a public record available to any citizen.

If, in fact, that is the basis for this state employee’s arrest, then that is the most extraordinary, unprecedented effort to quash legitimate public debate that I can remember and represents a direct attack on citizens’ right to know what is going on in their own government. If the reports of this arrest are true, I call on Governor Haslam to investigate this arrest, determine everyone who was involved in it and explain to the citizens how this outrage occurred.

The officer in question is a regular Tennessean who is doing a dangerous job to support her family and protect the citizens of this state. Apparently, rather than take the time to actually investigate the grave charges of understaffing and misreporting leveled against it, the Department of Correction has focused on orchestrating a vendetta against an employee that is alleged to have revealed a public video that any citizen should have the right to request any day of the week.

If the citizens are to have any confidence that the government of Tennessee remains open and accountable, the nature of this reported arrest, the communications that led to it and the individuals who authorized it need to be fully disclosed and investigated.”

Stewart announced that he has opened a website — www.tnprisonhotline.com — where anyone can confidentially produce information.

“If it is true that we are now arresting people based on allegations they revealed information about prisons that the public has the right to know anyway, I feel I need to do what I can to give our employees a confidential outlet where they can express their concerns,” Stewart said.