NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield has resigned to take a job with a publicly-traded prison corporation in Florida.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam announced Schofield's departure Wednesday, praising the 55-year-old administrator for his management of the department since 2011. After speaking to high school students at Lipscomb University, Haslam told reporters that Schofield's departure had nothing to do with recent controversies over staffing and safety at the department.
"I want to be as clear as I can: Derrick Schofield has been a great commissioner of correction," Haslam said. "He got a wonderful job offer. I begged him to stay. It's a really good offer that he thinks is the right thing for him. But I couldn't be more grateful for the work he's done here, and I will miss him."
Schofield accepted a position as executive vice president for continuum of care at the GEO Group Inc., a Florida-based corporation that builds and runs prisons in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. The company's website does not indicate it has any facilities in Tennessee.
In Tennessee Schofield faced criticism over reports of overcrowded and unsafe state's prisons, a perceived lack of transparency in the department and the way violent incidents in the prisons were recorded.
The Associated Press reported last month that Tennessee's newest prison had halted new admissions after just four months of full operation. A memorandum from a state prison official about the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility said guards there did not have control of the housing units and that some prisoners were being sent to solitary confinement for no documented reason.
Schofield said in interviews late last year that he did not intend to step down. In a statement issued by the governor's office, he said he was proud of his work in Tennessee.
"I am thankful for the ability to serve under Gov. Haslam's leadership and am proud of the work that we accomplished together," Schofield said. "I am especially proud of the hard work the more than 6,000 correctional professionals have put into making the Tennessee Department of Correction one of the best in the nation."