CoreCivic, a private prison corporation, continues to gain notoriety for the high homicide rate within its facilities. The increasing number of fatalities has provoked public outcry against the private prison system in Tennessee, leading many to question the lack of oversight and inadequate responses to inmate deaths.
CoreCivic, which operates four prison facilities in Tennessee, houses about a third of the state’s inmate population. According to the Tennessean’s recent article, however, nearly 63% of prison homicides in the state occur in CoreCivic prisons. Even when the numbers are controlled for similar inmate population, the article states that the homicide rate in CoreCivic prisons is nearly double that of state-run facilities.
This grossly disproportionate rate may not even tell the full story. An audit of Tennessee Department of Corrections records found that homicides in CoreCivic facilities may be under-reported, due to vague or incorrect statements of inmates’ causes of death. Therefore, the actual disparity in homicide rates between facilities may be greater than currently known.
The case of CoreCivic inmate Albert Dorsey represents a recent example of a suspicious death at the corporation’s prison. On September 14, 2019, Dorsey was found unresponsive in his cell at the Hardeman County correctional facility. Within an hour, he was pronounced dead; he had apparently strangled. The country medical examiner initially ruled his death a suicide, as he was allegedly found alone in his cell.
However, an autopsy revealed that Dorsey had actually been killed, and further noted that his cellmate (who is currently unnamed) confessed to killing him. Although an investigation has been launched, the details surrounding Dorsey’s death and the alleged cellmate’s confession are still obscure. CoreCivic has refused to comment on the matter.
Dorsey’s death raises questions that implicate potentially deadly flaws in CoreCivic’s system: how was the initial report of his death so wrong? Was the mistake completely unintentional? And if Dorsey was supposed to be alone in his cell, how was another inmate able to enter, kill him, and leave without being caught?
Dorsey is the fourth known inmate to be murdered at the Hardeman County facility since 2014. As the homicide rates for CoreCivic facilities eclipses those of state-run prisons, the public may question the lack of oversight and disregard for inmate safety displayed by CoreCivic and other private prison corporations.