FIRST ON 3: Cop-killer Jesse Mathews moved to maximum security unit
UPDATE: CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- In a letter to the District Attorney's office, the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Corrections announced that Jesse Ray Mathews has been moved to a maximum security unit at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning.
The decision follows a report by Channel 3 last week on the status of the man who pleaded guilty to killing Chattanooga Police Sergeant Tim Chapin.
The local district attorney's office was unaware of the medium-security classification before seeing it on Channel 3.
That prompted them to ask the state for reclassification into maximum security.
The Honorable Bill Cox
District Attorney General
Attention: Neal Pinkston, Executive Assistant to District Attorney
Dear Mr. Pinkston:
REGARDING: Jesse Ray Mathews #514571
Inmate Jesse Ray Mathews has been moved to a maximum security unit at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning pending reclassification based on additional information provide by your office.
We will keep you posted on future changes with our classification system as well as other specifics relating to inmate Mathews. Thank you for bring your concern to my attention.
Commissioner Derrick D. Schofield
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- Two months after pleading guilty to murdering a Chattanooga police sergeant, Jesse Mathews is in a medium security prison.
According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections' definition of medium security, Mathews has "moderate supervision".
His movement within the prison is restricted, but he has the ability to participate in programs.
Hamilton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston calls Mathews' placement "troubling."
The district attorney's office had no idea Mathews was not doing his time in maximum security until seeing it on Channel 3.
Now, District Attorney Bill Cox's office is formally asking the state to reconsider.
"I don't see in any way that he could be classified as medium anything, whether it be medium offender or medium threat to re-offend," says Pinkston, in an interview with Channel 3.
In a letter to the head of state prisons, Pinkston outlines the evidence he says shows Mathews should be in a maximum security prison.
It includes information never released until now.
Pinkston says while at Hamilton County Jail Mathews told jailers he inserted an ice pick in his rectum and could not retrieve it.
The news prompted a transfer to the nearest hospital, but an ice pick was never found.
Pinkston says the incident indicated potential escape plans.
Whether Mathews was faking an illness or arming himself, Pinkston says Mathews put "the public and law enforcement at grave risk."
Pinkston also points out Mathews was on parole escape status in Colorado when he murdered Sgt. Tim Chapin.
"Prior convictions from Colorado, those are in a nationwide database," says Pinkston. "That's known by anyone who checks in that regard."
A spokesperson for the department of corrections tells channel 3 in an email several factors go into the inmate classification process.
Severity of the offense, institutional behavior, disciplinary measures, and history of escape are considered.
"The severity of the offender's offense is one factor taken into consideration during the classification process," adds Dorinda Carter, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. "Other factors such as institutional behavior, (discipline), history of escape and others are also considered."
"Custody level is based on assessed risk, the amount or degree of supervision appropriate for each inmate that is consistent with the protection of the public, staff, and other inmates," she adds.
But Pinkston says the DOC must not have all the information.
Cases with an agreed plea do not require a pre-sentence investigation, which would have outlined Mathews' background.
That's why Pinkston says he's filling in the holes, in hopes Mathews will be transferred to a maximum security facility.
"So that they realize the magnitude of this individual and what he did to a whole lot of people," he says.
So far, the commissioner has not responded to the letter.
Carter says it's not possible to know if the commissioner received the letter until the office reopens Tuesday, after being closed for President's Day.
She adds more information would be available then.