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Hulsey's bill would contribute state funds for funeral costs of slain correctional officers

Hank Hayes • Feb 12, 2020 at 9:30 PM

NASHVILLE — A Tennessee House Corrections Subcommittee advanced amended legislation on Wednesday that would authorize the Department of Correction to contribute state funds toward the funeral expenses of any correctional employee killed in the line of duty.

The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, is the House sponsor of the bill.

“This bill originated after the untimely death of Debra Johnson in West Tennessee State Penitentiary,” Hulsey explained. “That amount of money could go to share in the cost of expenses who have given their life in this endeavor.”

Johnson, an administrator at the prison, was killed by an inmate who was supposed to be on a work detail. The inmate escaped but was later captured and charged with murder.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the legislation would increase state expenditures by $1,000 in the 2020-2021 fiscal year and subsequent years. The amendment placed a cap of $5,000 on the amount the department is authorized to contribute.

The Department of Correction says Johnson is the only correctional employee who has been killed in the line of duty in the past 10 years.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average funeral cost in the region that includes Tennessee was $7,353 in the 2018 fiscal year.

"This analysis estimates additional items, including a headstone and graveside service will be included and estimates the total cost of such funeral to be $10,000," the fiscal note concluded.

The bill now heads to a State Government Committee.

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