Although we are still reviewing Channel 4’s report in detail, what is already clear is there are numerous factual errors, blatant omissions and gross mischaracterizations. This is not surprising. The conduct of the reporter and station management throughout the development of this story showed that they had very little interest in painting a full, fair and accurate picture of our facility, our company or even the corrections profession itself.
Over a period of many months, we provided significant amounts of responsive information to the reporter. Very little of this information was included in the story. Despite claims to the contrary, we also offered a tour of the facility to the reporter in April 2017. After receiving no response to our initial outreach, we followed up with the reporter. She did not respond until a full seven days after the invitation was sent – and two days after the tour itself was scheduled – to communicate she was “out of town” on assignment. Although she could have sent another member of the Channel 4 news team to take the tour in her stead, she did not.
It is also false for Channel 4 to claim that a state lawmaker was denied access to our facility. No lawmaker has ever been denied access to Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC) by CoreCivic or the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC). In fact, TDOC specifically invited a lawmaker cited in this story to tour the facility.
There are numerous factual inaccuracies in this piece, but one of the most blatant falsehoods comes from the story's primary source, a former CoreCivic chaplain. She claimed to be present during at least one key event highlighted in the story for which she was not present. We have confirmed via incident reports and eyewitness verification that Chaplain Steubbel was not present during an incident in which facility staff successfully intervened and stopped an inmate's suicide attempt, which took place on September 21, 2016.
In addition to Steubbel’s total absence during the incident, Channel 4 never provided us the opportunity to respond to her allegations, despite our team being in regular contact with the reporter. When we learned of the story’s reliance on the former chaplain as a source, we alerted station leadership that she was terminated for cause in November 2016 following an investigation into gross misconduct. We also shared that during that investigation, the former employee misled and lied to investigators. Channel 4 not only ignored these warnings but further sought to defend her as a source and build a significant part of the story around her allegations, despite the serious issues with her credibility.
We are also reviewing the report word-by-word and frame-by-frame. Where false information was communicated by Channel 4, we will make a formal request for an on-air correction. Where Channel 4 failed to provide proper context – whether intentionally or not – we will make a formal request to share that context with its viewers. Where Channel 4 failed to adhere to ethical sourcing and reporting methods, we will ask Channel 4 to hold its staff accountable. Channel 4’s viewers deserve nothing less.
At the same time, we will be the responsible company that we know we are, and that Channel 4 doesn’t want its viewers to think we are. If in our review of this report, we find instances where our company didn’t follow policies or procedures, we will of course take appropriate, corrective action. We take any allegations of this nature seriously regardless of how they come to our attention. Our employees, our partners, taxpayers and, above all, the inmates entrusted in our care deserve nothing less.
Criminal justice is one of the most complex issues facing our society. Corrections professionals work hard every day to do everything they can to make a difference under difficult circumstances. As we’ve said publicly numerous times over a period of many months, we faced challenges with TTCC. We've taken responsibility for that. And we’ve made significant progress in recent months to strengthen the facility so that it fully meets our expectations, the public's, and those of our partners. This will continue to be our priority.
At the same time, we are proud of the dedicated TTCC employees who work hard every day to help the individuals in our care prepare to successfully rejoin their families and communities. While Channel 4's report selectively omitted these efforts, inmates at TTCC have daily access to a wide range of academic, vocational, and counseling programs that help them turn their lives around and provide them with the skills needed to obtain employment upon release, reengage in a positive way with loved ones and ultimately avoid returning to prison.