Wardens punished amid staffing, medication issues at women's prison

On Tuesday, The Tennessean confirmed that Warden Carolyn Jordan, Associate Warden Pat Ryan and Associate Warden Carolyn Benford were on leave from the women’s prison amid “concerns” about the effectiveness of their leadership.

“Warden Jordan remains on leave and will be demoted to associate warden. Associate Warden Benford retired. Associate Warden Ryan was demoted to correctional unit manager,” department spokeswoman Neysa Taylor said in an email.

The department revealed Thursday that those concerns include mandatory staff positions going unmanned, not distributing medication on time and and high security offenders allowed to interact.

“The evaluation revealed instances where mandatory posts were not being staffed sufficiently…The evaluation also uncovered the untimely issuing of (Keep on Person) medications, or inmate responsible medications that are kept in the cell with inmates,” reads a statement from the department.

For months, officers, inmates and their families complained about problems with staffing levels in facilities across the state. Lawmakers and the Tennessee State Employee Association have called for changes to the way officers are paid overtime and scheduled. The department says staffing issues have been addressed. Officers say payment problems remain.

The department’s investigation states officers and a vendor did not do enough to ensure the timely issuance of medication at the facility.

“While medication issuance is a medical contract vendor issue, the leadership of the facility failed to manage corrective action in a timely manner. This has also led to the removal of the facility’s health services administrator and the regional health administrator (both medical vendor employees) and as the contract states, liquidated damages being issued against the vendor.”

Staff at the facility also allowed two inmates who are classified as the most dangerous type of offenders to come into contact with one another.

“Although no incident resulted from the contact, the seriousness of the policy violation and potential for security issues demanded corrective action to include the disciplining of several correctional staff members,” according to the department statement.

The prison housed 798 inmates as of Sept. 30. It is now the second largest facility for female inmates, behind the newly created Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center at West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning. This week, the department confirmed two former correctional officers were fired amid accusations they had sexual contact with inmates at the new women’s facility and at West Tennessee.

Sexual contact with an inmate is a felony.

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