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The Mental Health Watchdog: Investigating & Exposing Human Rights Violations

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Mental health therapist Carolynn Kolesnikoff indicted for sex with inmate

Carolynn KolesnikoffHired to care for special-needs inmates, Carolynn Kolesnikoff is charged with having sex with one.

According to WKRN and Fox17, mental health therapist Carolynn Kolesnikoff has been indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury. She is facing three charges after admitting to an ongoing sexual relationship with an inmate and bringing contraband into a state prison.

Kolesnikoff is a Licensed Professional Counselor, licensed in 2016. She served as a correctional treatment specialist at the DeBerry Special Needs Facility.

DeBerry is a state prison which houses offenders with “multiple and complex medical problems, including acute and convalescent health care, intensive mental health intervention,” and other special needs. Its mental health program is “designed to stabilize the offender and move him through a process where the offender takes more responsibility for his behavior and mental health.” (~DeBerry website)

Per her LinkedIn profile, Kolesnikoff’s job duties involved working with gang-related and sex offenders, and she was responsible for pre-sentence reports for sex offense convictions.


  • The crime of sexual contact with inmates occurs in Tennessee when a law enforcement officer, correctional employee, vendor or volunteer engages in sexual contact or sexual penetration with a prisoner or inmate who is in custody at a penal institution, whether the conduct occurs on or off the grounds of the institution. (TCA § 39-16-408) This is a Class E felony, carrying a penalty of 1–6 years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
  • Bringing contraband into a penal institution is a crime under Tennessee law (TCA §39-16-201). It is generally a Class D felony with a penalty of 2–12 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000. (In certain circumstances it can be a Class C felony.)

CCHR Nashville questions whether Kolesnikoff was charged with sexual battery by an authority figure. This applies in Tennessee when the victim is mentally defective and i) the defendant is in a position of trust, or has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the defendant’s legal, professional or occupational status and uses the position of trust or power to accomplish the sexual contact; or ii) the defendant has custodial authority over the victim and uses the authority to accomplish the sexual contact. (TCA §39-13-506) Kolesnikoff was entrusted by TDOC to provide mental health services and admitted to abusing that trust by maintaining an ongoing sexual relationship. Sexual battery by an authority figure is a Class C Felony, with a sentencing guideline of 3–15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Sexual Abuse by Prison Staff

Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) to address the problem of sexual abuse of people in U.S. correctional agencies. In accordance with the PREA, TDOC adopted the policy “to provide a safe, humane and secure environment free from threat of sexual abuse for all offenders in custody by maintaining a program of prevention, detection, response, investigation and tracking of all alleged sexual abuse. TDOC has a zero tolerance policy for incidences of sexual abuse within its facilities.” (~TDOC website)

Carolynn Kolesnikoff would have known these policies. An on-site audit of PREA compliance conducted at DeBerry on July 7, 2020 found “an extraordinary amount of PREA information was posted throughout the facility on decorative bulletin boards accessible to all inmates and staff… All PREA information was easily identifiable due to being in notifiable bright colors separate from other documents. These organized bulletin boards were in every department and in the foyer of housing units. There were no areas where visibility was obstructed by the placement of equipment, window blinds, full doors without glass, etc.” (report)

Training and Education

  • BS, Human Services at Phoenix University (2002)
  • Masters in Counseling, Phoenix University (2005)

Request for Information

CCHR Nashville is asking that additional information or corrections related to this article be submitted through its contact page at


WKRN News report of August 31, 2020 (pdf):

A Davidson County Grand Jury returned three indictments against a former Tennessee Department of Corrections contract worker.

Carolyn Kolesnikoff, a former mental health therapist at the DeBerry Special Needs Facility, was charged with having sexual contact with an inmate and bringing contraband into a state prison. According to a statement from TDOC, Kolesnikoff admitted to an on-going sexual relationship with the inmate and bringing contraband items into the facility during an investigation.

Fox 17 report of August 31, 2020 (pdf)

The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) reports Carolynn Kolensikoff worked for a private contractor as a mental health specialist at DeBerry Special Needs Facility which houses offenders who need treatments not available at other TDOC facilities and for those with long-term medical needs.