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Northeast State Correctional Center sets to pace for the State of Tennessee

Northeast Correctional Complex is situated in Doe Valley, a picturesque region of Johnson County, Tennessee. This maximum-security prison currently employs 526 people, the largest full-time employer in the county.
The Northeast Correctional Complex facility opened in March of 1991 with 900 inmates. The male-only facility was completed in April of 1992, now housing 1,815 men. The cells are double-celled with two inmates per cell. According to Warden Howard Carlton, the State of Tennessee is bound to keep the number of inmates as the number of beds in the facility. Northeast Correctional Complex houses inmates who have committed a variety of offenses. However, it does not house death-row inmates. The facility houses those individuals who have been tried for crimes committed in Tennessee. Warden Carlton is also responsible for the Carter County Annex, housing 180 men. This location was previously known as the Carter County Camp.

Due to state-wide budget cuts, the number of employees was reduced from 560 to the current 526. According to Warden Carlton, “We’ve become one of the solid employers around.” The State of Tennessee offers a great benefits package to their employees. Many of the current employees at Northeast Correctional Complex have been employed at the facility since the prison was first established. Others have an impressive longevity of 10, 15 and 20 years. Last year, the turnover rate at Northeast Correctional Complex was 14 percent. Warden Carlton anticipates that will be lower this year due to the struggling economy. Necessary positions at the prison include correctional officers, food service, health care providers, administrative, maintenance staff and counselors. Employees of Northeast Correctional Center receive extensive training as prison work can be stressful and difficult. Employees contend with contraband brought into the prison on a daily basis. Cell phones and tobacco are two of the major offenders, along with drugs and gang activity. “They have to be on their toes all the time,” said Warden Carlton. “We have an excellent staff that is very professional.”

Northeast Correctional Complex has earned an excellent reputation throughout the State of Tennessee. Because of this renowned reputation, Northeast Correctional Complex has been given more latitude than other prisons throughout the State of Tennessee as they have confidence in those employed at this local facility. They set the pace for the State of Tennessee. This respect is reflected in the food services arena at Northeast Correctional Center. They have been allowed to provide an alternative menu for their inmates that was instrumental in drastically cutting their operating budget. Through various changes at Northeast Correctional Complex, the facility was able to return $1,800,000 to the State of Tennessee. While some positions were left vacant when employees left Northeast Correctional Complex, much of the reduction was in supplies and changes to the dietary menu. The total food cost per day, per inmate, is $3.15. These changes, approved by a dietician, still provide good food choices for the inmates. Due to budget cuts, the number of community crews has been reduced from 21 to 14, allowing 14 crews to be split evenly between both Johnson and Carter counties. These crew members help with cleanup, road work and assist local municipalities. However, most of the construction work has ceased due to the budget cuts. Inmates working on these crews can obtain good, working skills. Each crew is comprised of 12 inmates. The reduction in community crews has saved the state a significant amount of money.
According to Warden Carlton, prisons often house a large population who suffer with serious health and mental issues, some infected with AIDS and HIV. Approximately one-third of the inmates in the prison system suffer from Hepatitis C. Many of these inmates have a greater need for help because of these conditions. Northeast Correctional Complex offers very basic health and dental care. The complex also employs a full educational department with their own principal and several teachers. The purpose of this education is to provide the inmates with marketable job skills. They also prepare those inmates without a high school education to take a standardized test to earn their General Education Degree. Inmates can also learn skills to help them prepare for a job once they leave the prison system. These skills include: landscaping, basic building, cabinet making, food services and electronics. Inmates can also take part in two industry programs that offer skills they can use once they leave the prison system.
Warden Howard Carlton is resigning on April 30th, 2010. He has decided to retire from The State of Tennessee after 31 years of employment. Carlton has served as a warden for 21 of those years, with 18 years at Northeast Correctional Complex. Warden Carlton has the longest tenure serving as warden in one facility.