Sen. Brenda Gilmore says state must do more to protect prison staff, inmates from virus

NASHVILLE, TN — After one of the nation’s largest Covid-19 outbreaks, the state should do more to protect prison guards, staff and inmates, according to Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville).

“It’s a serious concern to see our prison facilities seemingly unprepared for the coronavirus,

Sen. Brenda Gilmore

at this unprecedented level, when we’ve known for months the heightened threat these conditions present to prison guards and inmates,” Sen. Gilmore said. “There was plenty of time to reduce prison populations and put more effective safeguards in place to protect our guards and the prisoners in their care.” 

Sen. Gilmore says there are several options the state could, and should have, implemented to reduce the number of people in facilities that are not meant for social distancing:

Accelerate release for inmates who have been granted parole, but are waiting on release due to program requirements that can’t be finished while contractors are banned from prisons;

Streamline the release process for inmates who are currently parole eligible; and

Screen and furlough prisoners who are medically vulnerable, such as the elderly, expecting mothers and those with chronic conditions.

The Covid-19 outbreak at Trousdale Turner Correction Center, run by for-profit prison company CoreCivic, tallied 1,299 inmates and 50 staff members. At the state-run Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, 583 staff and inmates have been infected with coronavirus, according to news reports.

“Families of these prison staff members and inmates are rightfully scared and we should not have to wait until someone dies for more effective measures to be put in place,” Sen. Gilmore said.