Prison chief working on stricter watch over sex offenders

Prison chief working on stricter watch over sex offenders

June 8th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Terry Releford

FORMS OF SUPERVISION

* Probation: An offender's prison sentence is suspended and he or she is supervised in the community. Offenders who violate the terms of probation may be sent to prison to serve their terms.

* Parole: An offender is released from prison before his or her term is up and supervised in the community until the term expires.

* Community correction: A diversion program allowing offenders to remain in the community and be supervised, similar to probation.

Source: Dorinda Carter, Tennessee Department of Correction

SUPERVISION FOR SEX OFFENDERS

All sex offenders on community supervision have arrest record checks, employment verification and are required to have sex offender treatment. The level of offense determines how often they receive face-to-face visits, home visits and drug screens.

* Enhanced: Drug screens every three months, two home visits per month, two face-to-face contacts per month;

* Maximum: Drug screens every six months, one home visit per month, two face- to-face contacts per month;

* Medium: Drug screens every six months, one face-to-face contact per month, one home visit per month

Source: Dorinda Carter, Tennessee Department of Correction

Document: TDOC Judicial Liaison Appointment

A June 3 letter from Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield announcing the creation of a judicial liaison position.

After reports last week that a convicted rapist who killed his wife was supposed to be on lifetime supervision, state corrections authorities have named a courts liaison to make sure such monitoring actually happens.

Terry Releford served most of a 17-year sentence on violent rape and assault charges before his release in 2012. Authorities knew he was mentally ill, and though state law said he should have been supervised for life by the Department of Correction, there was a paperwork slip-up, the Times Free Press reported last week.

No one was watching on May 19 when Releford, 34, beat his pregnant wife to death at their home near Soddy-Daisy and raped a teen girl before eluding authorities and shooting himself in a North Georgia motel room.

The liaison will work with judges and courts across the states to provide appropriate supervision for offenders, Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said in a June 3 letter to department employees.

The liaison's job will be "to lead education and implementation of our justice reinvestment initiative," the letter stated. It described "justice reinvestment" as "our ongoing effort to ensure we do our part to manage the offender population through evidence-based practices and community alternatives."

Mickie Daughtery, program director of the Davidson County Community Corrections Program, will fill the position June 17, the letter states.

No one watching

Less than a year ago, Releford had just completed nearly 15 years in prison on his conviction for raping two women when he was 18. As a violent sex offender, he was supposed to be placed on community supervision for life, according to state law.

But the Department of Correction never received a court order to place Releford on the program. There was no record that prosecutors at the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office received letters from TDOC alerting them of Releford's status after they failed to write out the conditions of his prison sentence on the judgment form.

"Issues like Community Supervision for Life would be an area we want to look at in how we can ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen and enhance communication all around," department spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said in an email when asked about the Releford case.

Had Releford been placed on community supervision, someone would have ensured that he received sex offender treatment and mental health check-ups. Releford was in and out of mental hospitals as a juvenile and was known to use drugs, according to records.

An officer would have visited Releford at home each month and made sure he was screened for drugs. Carter did not respond when asked what level of supervision Releford would fall under given his history.

In an email generally describing supervision levels, she wrote: "The assessment tool looks at several factors to determine the level of supervision including work current and history, family current and history, criminal history, education, mental health concerns, violence, victimizations, social/leisure activities, criminal/non-criminal companions, criminal attitude."

Carter said this issue was being discussed before Releford committed another rape and killed his wife. She said the department is hoping to work with the courts to use alternative sentences for qualified offenders so prison beds are reserved for the most violent.

The new position also will evaluate the effectiveness of community supervision.

"Just to examine all of the processes of community supervision. Just to look at every aspect of it," she said. "We're constantly looking at ways to enhance and improve."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@times freepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.