When Derrick Schofield, the head of the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) announced his resignation, he unknowingly sparked a conversation about the Tennessee prison system and how it’s changed under his tenure.
Schofield first joined the TDOC in January 2011 after departing from the Georgia Department of Corrections, where he began his career in the prison industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Fort Valley State University and then decided to join the United States Army. After his career in the military, he later received a Master of Public Administration from Columbus College and is currently pursuing a doctorate from Piedmont International University.
When Schofield first took the helm at the TDOC, he began to implement policies reminiscent of his days in the military, with NBC News reporting that “The academy changed a learning environment to a military environment” referring to the TDOC training academy for probation and parole officers. Within the prison system, cell inspections began to occur daily instead of weekly, and prisoners had to walk silently and in lines when moving across prison ground.
The results of these measures seem to have drawn mixed, and often-times conflicting reactions and statistic from the TDOC, prison staff, and inmates themselves. TDOC data show that assaults on staff initially picked up in 2011, but by 2015 violent incidents dropped by 43%. Prison staff, however, came forward to say that incidents that should have been reported as violent, were told to be reported as ‘provocations instead.’
Having gained several critics and also several supporters, most notably Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Schofield is leaving the TDOC to become a vice president at the GEO Group, one of the country’s largest private correction companies.