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VOL. 45 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 23, 2021

Tennessee corrections commissioner to retire this fall

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee's corrections leader plans to retire this fall after almost four decades with the department.

On Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Correction announced the retirement of Commissioner Tony Parker, who was appointed by former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2016 and reappointed by Gov. Bill Lee in 2019.

Parker has been with the department for 38 years. He began as a corrections officer and climbed the ranks to positions including assistant commissioner, correctional administrator and warden.

The department includes more than 6,000 employees and oversees more than 20,000 incarcerated individuals and 70,000 people on community supervision.

Parker, who is currently president of the American Correctional Association, said he plans "to return to West Tennessee and catch up on spending quality time with my family and friends."

During Parker's tenure, the department faced multiple tough audits about its facilities and those run by private prison operator CoreCivic, identifying issues that ranged from problems with its data about inmate incidents and deaths behind bars to its methods of investigating sexual assault and harassment allegations.

His department oversaw seven executions since 2018 — five in the electric chair, two by lethal injection — resuming a pause in putting inmates to death that had stretched back to 2009. The most recent was in February 2020, followed by delays to other scheduled executions due to COVID-19.

Parker also pushed for new pay raises and bonuses for correctional officers whose compensation lagged behind nationally, helped create day reporting centers as an alternative to incarceration and backed a change in state law that makes it a felony for inmates to have a cellphone while in prison.

Lee said Parker "played a pivotal role in efforts to enhance public safety and improve Tennessee's criminal justice system" for nearly four decades.

The department did not specify exactly when Parker will leave his post.

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