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NCJ Number: 149276 Find in a Library
Title: Reform Advances in Tennessee After Decades of Brutality
Journal: National Prison Project Journal  Volume:8  Issue:4  Dated:(October 1993)  Pages:1-5
Author(s): G Bonnyman
Date Published: 1993
Page Count: 5
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Tennessee's litigation on prison conditions, which ended in May 1993 after 18 years in the courts, illustrates both the potential and the limitations of litigation as a catalyst for social reform.
Abstract: The lawsuit raised major constitutional principles and pitted the courts' coercive power against the institutional inertia of a large prison systems. However, individuals were as responsible as were legal principles and institutional relationships for the final outcome. The prison system had a century-old tradition of corruption and brutality when inmates filed their handwritten complaint in 1975. During the first decade of litigation, State politicians continued the tradition of neglecting the prison system. However, the litigation both stimulated reform and provided guidelines for achieving it. Crucial individuals included Governor Ray Blanton; an imposter who obtained the position of prison system Medical Director; corrupt, brutal, and incompetent wardens, managers, and guards; a State legislature reelected while in a Federal prison on a tax conviction; the sentencing commission; career bureaucrat Steve Norris; defense counsel; Governor Lamar Alexander; and Governor Ned Ray McWherter. As a result of the litigation, the prison system had been dramatically reformed by 1992. Violence had declined sharply, services had greatly improved, and the Department of Correction had internalized an ethos of professionalism. Photograph
Main Term(s): Correctional reform
Index Term(s): Corrections management; Court ordered institutional reform; Facility conditions; Tennessee
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