ATLANTA --- Four Georgia inmates said in a federal lawsuit Tuesday that they were brutally beaten by prison guards while handcuffed, an allegation that spurred prisoners last year to plan a statewide protest seeking better work and living conditions.
The lawsuit filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights claims the attacks took place in August 2010 by officers at Hays State Prison in northwest Georgia. It asks a judge to end the "pattern and practice of using excessive and retaliatory force" against inmates.
"Physical abuse against prisoners cannot be tolerated in a civilized society," said Atteeyah Hollie, an attorney with the center. The lawsuit was also filed by Atlanta law firm Hunton & Williams.
The Georgia Department of Corrections said it has yet to receive the complaint and wouldn't comment further.
The alleged abuse against inmates Miracle Nwakanma, Cornelius Spencer, Eric Towns and Gregory Haines was part of a list of complaints that prodded prisoners to coordinate a strike in December seeking better conditions.
Inmates said they wouldn't perform chores, work for the department's industrial arm or shop at prison stores until their demands were met. Prison officials locked down Hays and three other prisons for about a week after learning about the plans.
The four inmates say they were attacked about 2 p.m. after guards ordered a lockdown of the prison amid unrest in another part of the facility.
Haines said he was led in handcuffs to a shower, shoved onto his knees and elbowed and punched by guards. Towns said he was kicked in the head and smashed with a baton, while Spencer said he was punched, kicked and stomped on after he told an officer, "I ain't did nothing." He said the officer responded: "You ain't felt nothing yet."
Nwakanma appeared to get the worst of it, according to the lawsuit.
He says officers handcuffed him while he was in an exercise cage and struck him in the back of his head with a baton, then punched until he fell to his knees. He said an officer then kicked him so hard that his teeth splintered. One of the officers, he said, told Nwakanma he would send a card to his mother saying "her son ain't coming home" before the inmate lost consciousness.
Nwakanma suffered a fractured jaw, a broken toe and possible brain damage, and oral surgery was later required to repair the damage to his face, according to the lawsuit.
It is the second time the center's attorneys have sued Hays State Prison officials over allegations that guards assaulted inmates. The center settled a civil rights lawsuit in 1997 on behalf of 14 men who claimed they were subjected to unprovoked beatings at the facility.