Tennessee prison renamed in honor of slain corrections administrator


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Prison for Women will be renamed in honor of a corrections administrator who was allegedly killed by an escaped inmate a year ago.

According to a release from the Tennessee Department of Corrections, the Tennessee Prison for Women will now be named the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center.

Gov. Bill Lee has reportedly signed an executive order authorizing the change.

TDOC Corrections Administrator Debra Johnson was killed in 2019 at her home near the West Tennessee State Penitentiary. Johnson worked for TDOC for 38 years before her death.

“Debra loved being a part of the Tennessee Prison for Women, but more importantly, she loved the staff and cared deeply about improving the lives of incarcerated women,” TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker said in a statement released Thursday.

Curtis Ray Watson has been charged in connection with her death. Watson is accused of escaping the facility before sexually assaulting and murdering Johnson.

Authorities embarked on a manhunt to find Watson. After five days, authorities captured Watson just 10 miles from the penitentiary.

State prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Watson’s case.

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