Investigation reveals possible abuse at Columbus, Ga., prison

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COLUMBUS, Ga. — A state investigation into the Muscogee County Prison revealed allegations of staff misconduct, mistreatment of inmates and sexual relationships that might have led to preferential treatment, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

The Department of Corrections investigation came at the request of Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson after she raised concerns about the way the facility was being run, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer .

Tomlinson requested the probe in August after Warden Bill Adamson came to her to complain of warring factions within his command staff and an “actively disloyal” group of guards who sought to undermine his authority, she said in a letter.

Adamson retired late last year and was replaced by Dwight Hamrick, a 34-year veteran of the corrections system and a former warden of Rutledge State Prison.

The report said several officers complained of a sexual affair between a lieutenant and an officer that let the officer get more overtime work than others. It said a male officer made demeaning comments about another officer’s genitals.

It also documented claims that a high-ranking officer regularly berated and belittled his subordinates. And it said that some officers ignored inmates’ medical complaints.

Prison counselor Twyla Chester said one reason morale was low was because black employees were regularly fired for the same issues that white employees got a “slap in the hand.”

The probe was conducted by five investigators who were sent to the prison in late September. The investigators interviewed 27 current and former prison employees, and their report was declassified last week and obtained by the newspaper through a public records request.

Tomlinson said the report confirms what she had feared was happening in the prison.

“People were being managed through intimidation and fear,” she told the newspaper. “They were being managed through the use of taxpayer dollars to garner favor and to garner power and to deny other factions access to resources such as overtime. There were morale problems, high levels of mistrust among the guards.”

Hamrick, who came out of retirement to take over the prison, said the prison has improved since he took over.

“I’ve got an open-door policy,” he told the newspaper. “The staff knows they can come to me and talk to me about anything going on. That’s been very helpful.”

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