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PLN managing editor quoted in story on labor abuses at CCA jail

WSMV Channel 4, Sept. 23, 2015.

Former prison employees accused of profiting from inmates

Posted: Sep 23, 2015 6:27 PM CDT Updated: Sep 23, 2015 8:53 PM CDT

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Three prison employees pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a scheme to make money off products made by inmates.

The three worked as instructors at the Corrections Corporation of America’s Building Trades Program at the prison off Harding Place.

CCA runs the prison under a contract with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department.

The three former CCA employees did not appear in court for their arraignment, but let their lawyers enter their pleas of not guilty.

Robert Hill, Stephen Brinkley and Roy Napper are all accused of selling products made by their inmates in the wood shop and keeping the profits for themselves.

Attorney Frank Lannom represents Hill.

“He is a man of exemplary character, very charitable,” Lannom said. “He and his wife have been active in charity and ministry work for years.”

Prosecutors said some of the prison-made products were sold at the Nashville Flea Market.

The nonprofit Prison Legal News recorded hidden camera video in May. It shows the CCA instructors selling wooden plaques made by unpaid prison labor, implying they were the craftsmen.

The inmates had secretly marked the wood before the products were assembled.

The contract with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department said the sheriff’s office is supposed to monitor what goes on at the CCA jail.

“I was very surprised,” said Tony Wilkes, chief of corrections at the sheriff’s department.

Channel 4 asked why didn’t the sheriff’s department monitor who was at the prison five days a week or get curious about why inmates were making cornhole games and plaques with sports team logos.

Wilkes said the monitoring is not that in-depth.

“If there are particular programs that are being offered, that person is responsible to ensure that those programs exist but not to know the internal workings of those programs,” he said.

Alex Friedmann with Prison Legal News said prison monitors don’t do a lot of monitoring.

“A lot of the time, they sit in an office, they look at reports and data they get from the contractors,” Friedmann said. “They simply didn’t do their job.”

The three former employees were all part-owners of a business called Stand Firm Designs. They were selling items through the company’s website.