State corrections admits oversight in Mathews' classification - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

State corrections admits oversight in Mathews' classification

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- After Channel 3 brought you first word that Jesse Mathews was being housed in a medium security prison, the local district attorney's office requested that Mathews be transferred.

Now, corrections has moved him into a new prison: the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, about an hour's drive south from the medium security facility that had been holding him.

The move comes as a relief for the families of Mathews' victims, who have questions about how a man sentenced to life without parole, and with an escape history fell through the cracks.

State prisons commissioner Derrick Schofield says Jesse Mathews' new home better suits the admitted cop killer than his previous address.

"I'm sitting here second guessing the staff that did that, and I would say it's not the best choice for him to be a medium security offender," says Schofield.

Mathews was graded by a computer program that weighs the severity of an offense, past criminal behavior, and escape attempts. He was then assigned to a medium security facility, the second lowest classification.

The decision was made without the department of corrections knowing Mathews murdered a police officer, or that he was on escape status when he did it.

"The judgment is pretty clear, it was life without parole for murder plus an additional 25 years, so that speaks for itself," says Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney General Neal Pinkston.

Schofield agrees the judgment alone should have raised a flag, prompting his team to check a nationwide database for information on Mathews' background.

"Part of this is to go back and ensure that we do some retraining and we have consistency," says Schofield.

Mathews will be reassessed, but Schofield can't guarantee he will remain in maximum security, a place reserved for inmates who have caused problems at lower level facilities.

Mathews has behaved. And, the fact that he murdered a police officer doesn't mandate maximum security.

"We also have to be fair to the offender, that we don't just punish them based on what the family says should happen or what the D.A. says should happen," Schofield says. "We are going to take all that into consideration."

A true classification will take 10 days.

Schofield insists the oversight never put the public in danger.

"Even at medium security the facility he was in was capable of holding him, in terms of the potential for him to leave, as well as our maximum security facilities," he says.

The families of Mathews' victims are teaming up to make sure he stays in maximum security.

They've contacted lawmakers about possible legislation that would make it mandatory for anyone who kills a police officer to serve time in maximum security.

They also want to see a pre-sentence investigation, which outlines a convict's background for the department of corrections, done for all cases.

Currently, it is exempt when there is an agreed plea.

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