Lawsuits Challenge Conditions at Tennessee Jail; Five Charged in Bribery and Smuggling Scheme

Lawsuits Challenge Conditions at Tennessee Jail; Five Charged in Bribery and Smuggling Scheme

By Prison Legal News

In the wake of a Tennessee federal district court hearing in a lawsuit challenging conditions at the Maury County Jail (MCJ), the number of suits filed by prisoners against the jail has nearly doubled.

At a September 2012 hearing, prisoners held at the MCJ testified they were losing weight and that the facility was overcrowded and infested with brown recluse spiders. They also claimed their requests for medical attention were often ignored.

At least 23 lawsuits concerning conditions at the MCJ have been filed. County Attorney Daniel Murphy, however, told the federal court at an October 29, 2012 hearing that the jail had made changes in response to prisoners’ complaints; for example, meals were increased from 2,700 calories daily to 2,900. He also said new meal trays were provided, hygiene supplies such as toothpaste and shampoo have been increased, and old mattresses, which were worn and moldy, are being replaced.

Murphy further noted that the MCJ had formalized its grievance and medical request procedures and that 25 state prisoners had been transferred out of the facility to state prisons to address overcrowding.

U.S. District Court Judge William Haynes commended the MCJ on taking action but still was concerned about “the things that you can plainly see.”

“[T]he bottom line here is that protecting the health of the inmates is the most important thing,” he said. “You still have the steel doors on the showers that are rusted, and the vents in the showers are heavily rusted.”

The federal lawsuit that was the subject of the court hearings remains pending. See: McGuire v. George, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 1:12-cv-00082. Columbia attorney Eugene Hallworth, representing the plaintiff in that case, has filed at least five other suits against the Maury County Sheriff’s Department.

In related news, a grand jury indicted five people, including an MCJ guard, with bribery and drug smuggling at the jail. The indictment was the culmination of a year-long investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and Maury County Sheriff’s Department.

The investigation found that MCJ guard Derek Wayne Turner, 38, was accepting cash payments to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the facility for prisoners James E. Pierce, 40, and Benjamin R. Bradley, 35. Also charged were Melinda A. Buie, Pierce’s ex-girlfriend, and Linda Chapman, Bradley’s mother. They all eventually pleaded guilty.

Turner and Chapman were sentenced in July 2013 to six months incarceration plus two years on supervised release and time served plus one year of supervised release, respectively. Buie was sentenced to two years probation. And in October 2013, Pierce received 13 months in prison and three years on supervised release, while Bradley was sentenced to 11 months in prison plus three years’ probation.

 Sources: Associated Press, The Daily Herald, The Republic,

(Reprinted with Permission from Prison Legal News)