The partying behind Tennessee's prison bars uncovered by the Channel 4 I-Team has prompted an internal memo from the commissioner of the Department of Correction, which tells what must be done to stop the party.
The memo was sent within the past week to the commissioner's staff, and one prison reform organization calls it "damage control."
Videos of inmates bragging about their drug use and photos showing the prisoners hoarding food, giving each other tattoos and burning a shirt were all posted to Facebook from behind bars - all of it exposed by the Channel 4 I-Team.
Now, in the memo, Commissioner Derrick Schofield, writes "recent news coverage regarding cell phones in prisons portrayed a negative image of our work to control contraband. We don't make excuses for it."
"I think he is trying to do a little damage control in terms of letting employees know they need to be a little more diligent," said prison reform advocate Alex Friedmann.
The ongoing investigation by the Channel 4 I-Team revealed last week how a correctional officer assigned to an elite task force charged with uncovering contraband was fired March 1 after he was accused of smuggling weed and perhaps even a cell phone into the Riverbend State Prison.
The commissioner writes, "while there are always things we can do better to enhance our supervision, we must not forget the vast majority of our employees are dedicated to doing what's right."
The commissioner also warns that with the summer months approaching, there will be increased chances for offenders to spend time outside and attempt to get outside fences.
"Review your post orders, over communicate with each other, and challenge the status quo," Schofield writes in the memo to prison staff.
The commissioner also claimed in the memo that many of the displayed pictures the Channel 4 I-Team found posted to Facebook were dated or not taken inside state or private prisons.
However, all the photos we found were posted on current Facebook pages until we alerted the state to them and they then took them down.
One video posted to an inmate's page was taken while he was inside a Memphis jail, and we reported that clearly, but the other videos all came from inside Tennessee state prisons.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said the commissioner had no comment on the memo.
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Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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