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Tennessee Court Records

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The Tennessee State Prison System

Convicted offenders or those awaiting trial in Tennessee are taken to correctional facilities managed by the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC). The state department is tasked with setting the guidelines or determining the mode of operation of state prisons. Tennessee prisons are built to enhance the public safety of the state. As such, the prison system is involved in the incarceration, rehabilitation, and transition to the community of convicts. The responsibility of maintaining jails in any county or city lies with the sheriff or police department. Offenders with less severe crimes and those whose trials are pending are taken to county/city jails. There are also federal prisons in Tennessee that keep offenders that violate federal laws.

What is the Difference Between Jail and Prison in Tennessee?

Prisons and jails have separate meanings in Tennessee. Generally, prisons are secure structures that hold persons guilty of a violent criminal offense and completing a term of more than one year. Meanwhile, jails are for people arrested, trials are ongoing, being held for a plea bargain, crime is lesser, and waiting to be transferred to state prison. Prisons are long-term correctional facilities, while jails are short-term. The state corrections department ensures that inmates are involved in several programs before reentering society. However, these programs are not available in jails since inmates may be released within the year.

How Many Prisons are in Tennessee?

The Tennessee Department of Correction manages 14 state prisons located in different parts of the state. While the state operates ten prisons, the remaining four are privately-owned. Apart from state prisons, there is also at least a jail located in all 95 counties. With more than 6000 employees, TDOC prisons are built to imprison up to 20,000 offenders. There is a Tennessee Correction Academy that prepares correctional personnel and other criminal justice staff from other government departments in Tennessee. Here are names of the state prisons in Tennessee:

  • Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, Pikeville
  • Morgan County Correctional Complex, Wartburg
  • Northeast Correctional Complex, Mountain City
  • Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility, Nashville
  • Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, Nashville
  • Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center, Nashville
  • Turney Center Industrial Complex, Clifton
  • Mark Luttrell Transition Center, Memphis
  • Northwest Correctional Complex, Tiptonville
  • West Tennessee State Penitentiary, Henning
  • Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center, Henning
  • Hardeman County Correctional Facility, Whiteville
  • South Central Correctional Facility, Clifton
  • Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, Hartsville
  • Whiteville Correctional Facility, Whiteville

How do I search for an Inmate in Tennessee State Prison?

Getting inmate information in Tennessee is free. Interested persons can look up inmates held at the state prison through the felony offender information provided by the Department of Corrections. The online database is updated regularly by the department to ensure that all the information is accurate. Requesters can perform a name search, a search using the inmate’s TDOC number, or the state ID number. To find inmate information of prisoners held at the city or county jail, requesters may contact the sheriff or police department. In Tennessee, some counties maintain an online database that is easily accessible. In most cases, the website of the sheriff or police department may provide this information.

Are Incarceration Records Public in Tennessee?

In line with the Tennessee Open Records Act, public records like incarceration records are open to the public to ensure transparency and accountability in government procedures. For this reason, anyone can submit a request to the appropriate record custodian to obtain a record. Incarceration records are maintained by the Tennessee Department of Corrections and may be found under the criminal history record maintained by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Note that some information on the incarceration record is confidential since they violate privacy laws in the state. Examples of such details are social security numbers and medical reports. Sometimes, the only way to obtain this sensitive information is to get a court order.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

● The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile

● The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How to Look Up Jail Records in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, jail records are part of the criminal history file stored in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation database. The records are created, maintained, and obtainable at the county level at the sheriff’s office. A unified repository of statewide criminal history records for adult offenders is managed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). This vast platform, officially named the Tennessee Open Records Information Services (TORIS), is easily accessible for state citizens. All criminal background information from TORIS is primarily created by submitting fingerprints by local law enforcement authorities. Therefore, the database contains all the information (as well as jail records) regarding an offender. Any individual can directly obtain an adult offender’s criminal background from TBI without being needed to request fingerprints of the subject. Requesters can start a background check on the Internet or send a U.S. Mail. To send a mail request, a completed application form should be submitted to:

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation- TORIS Unit

901 R. S. Gass Boulevard.

Nashville, TN 37216

Phone: (615) 744–4057

Fax: (615) 744–4651

Note that a request cost $29, payable through credit cards.

Can Jail Records be Expunged in Tennessee?

Yes, jail records can be expunged in Tennessee. Expunged jail records are destroyed and will not be available to anyone, including the record holder. The Tennessee Code § 40–32–101 describes all the conditions and crimes eligible for expungement and the process required in the filing. Expungement of records is free for individuals whose cases were dismissed or given a verdict of ‘not guilty.’ ‘Nolle Prosequi’ or ‘No True Bill’ charges can also be expunged for free in Tennessee. On the other hand, the expungement of cases that resulted in a diversion will cost $350. Eligible applicants should locate the appropriate court clerk to initiate the process of expungement.

After the expungement process is completed at the county level, an expungement order will be submitted to different government agencies, including the arresting agency, jails, the Tennessee Department of Correction, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Each governmental organization has its guidelines for expunging records after the order is received. The record-holder may want to inform the TDOC and TBI to ensure that each agency has obtained the order. TDOC erases the information from its Tennessee Felony Offender Lookup (FOIL) while TBI removes the Tennessee Open Records Information Services (TORIS).

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