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Contributed by the Bledsoe County Sheriff's Office / Brandon Copeland

The Tennessee Department of Correction is conducting an investigation dubbed Operation Naughty List that has so far resulted in charges against six people, two of them former prison employees.

The arrests in the first two days of the operation stem from a yearlong investigation underway by the department's Office of Investigation & Conduct and Bledsoe County Correctional Complex's Internal Affairs division, according to a statement issued by the state department. Warrants for 20 defendants were issued in indictments handed up by the Bledsoe County grand jury in July.

Special corrections agents teamed with local law enforcement agencies in eight counties including the Bledsoe County Sheriff's Office, Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, Sullivan County Sheriff's Office, the Second Judicial District's Drug Task Force and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, according the the statement. The state conducts similar operations at Bledsoe and other prisons periodically.

TDOC spokesman Rob Reburn said Wednesday that 10 of the indictments were issued for inmates who are already incarcerated.

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Six arrested at Bledsoe prison

Among the six are two former prison employees, Brandon Copeland, who is charged with tampering with evidence and official misconduct, and Thomas Penwell, who is charged with theft of property and official misconduct, Reburn said.

(READ MORE: Most Bledsoe prisoners who tested postive for coronavirus have no symptoms, state says)

"This operation is a perfect example of our department's efforts to enhance public safety in Tennessee. We will continue to work with our judicial partners to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who threatens the safety and security of our prisons," says a statement from TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker.

The other defendants charged in Operation Naughty List include:

— Leletha Hall, charged with contraband inside of a penal facility;

— Theresa Ringley, charged with contraband in a penal facility, conspiracy to introduce contraband into a penal facility and possession of Schedule III narcotics;

— Kathy Young, charged with contraband in a penal facility, conspiracy to introduce contraband into a penal facility and possession of Schedule III narcotics;

— Jennifer Hughes, charged with contraband in a penal facility, conspiracy to introduce contraband into a penal facility and possession of Schedule III narcotics.

Special agents are still investigating leads regarding four more people, officials said.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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