Scathing report shines spotlight on violent attacks in Georgia prisons
By Dana Ford CNN | 7/3/2014, 10:19 a.m.
ATLANTA (CNN) - On September 1, 2012, an adult inmate was attacked at Baldwin State Prison in Hardwick, Georgia.
He had a sense of what was coming so he ran to a dorm entrance and screamed for help. Help didn't come.
Other inmates dragged the man to a bathroom where he was stomped, kicked and punched.
They tied his hands and poured scalding water on his groin and thigh. They forced a broomstick up his rectum.
Eventually, his assailants let him go, which -- amazingly -- puts that inmate in the lucky category. Lucky to be alive.
Thirty-three prisoners and one officer have been killed by other prisoners in Georgia since 2010, according to a report released Wednesday by the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta.
The report details the attack on that inmate, and other attacks on other prisoners, and calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
It says the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) has failed.
Calls to the Georgia department were not immediately returned Wednesday.
"People who are supposed to be running our prisons have lost control," said Sarah Geraghty, senior attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights. "It appears they either cannot or will not take appropriate steps to address the level of violence."
'Violent prisons teach and breed violence'
The violence is staggering and, according to the center's report, becoming more and more brutal.
In January, a prisoner at Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, Georgia, suffered third-degree burns after boiling water was poured on his face and genitals, and bleach was poured into his eyes.
In February, a prisoner had three fingers severed by a man with a 19-inch knife at Wilcox State Prison in Abbeville, Georgia.
And just this week, an inmate at Augusta State Medical Prison in Grovetown, Georgia, died after being stabbed.
The problem, Geraghty said, is multidimensional.
One, prisoners have access to lethal weapons. Two, supervision and protective custody procedures are inadequate. Three, locks on some cell doors have been broken -- and left that way for years.
And on, and on and on.
"It has reached a point where nearly every day we receive calls or letters from someone who was assaulted or stabbed or beaten or raped in our state prisons," Geraghty said, stressing that inmates aren't the only ones in danger.
The conditions pose significant risk to correctional officers and to the public as well.
Last year, some 21,000 men and women were released from Georgia prisons, according to the report.
"Prisons are supposed to provide rehabilitation. But violent prisons teach and breed violence," it reads.
What could happen next?
A request for comment to the Department of Justice was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Besides launching an investigation, the department could recommend changes and pursue litigation.
It's done so before in a number of cases.
The report highlights three Georgia prisons as particularly dangerous: Baldwin State Prison, Hays State Prison and Smith State Prison.
Twenty-one percent of the 33 homicides of Georgia prisoners since 2010 took place at Smith State Prison, located in Glennville, Georgia, according to the Southern Center for Human Rights.
But Geraghty is not asking the Justice Department to look at specific prisons; she wants it to investigate the system as a whole.
The center says three times as many prisoners were killed in Georgia in 2012, as compared to 10 years ago, and that in that one year, Georgia had more homicides in its state prisons than some other states' prisons had in the last 10 years.
For context, between 2001-2011, there were 31 state prisoner deaths by homicide reported in Georgia, nine in Alabama, 21 in South Carolina, 44 in Florida, eight in Pennsylvania, seven in Mississippi and 142 in California, the nation's most populous state, according to Justice Department statistics.
"The U.S. Department of Justice should launch a thorough investigation," reads the center's report. "It is not possible to stop all violence in prison. But the frequency and severity of violent incidents that are now occurring in Georgia's prisons do not happen in a well-run system."
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