Augusta State Medical Prison ranks high among Georgia’s state prisons for the number of serious attacks on both inmates and corrections staff, according to an analysis of prison incident reports and state data from the Department of Corrections.
From Jan. 1, 2008, through Sept. 3, 2011, the medical prison ranked among the top five of the state’s 31 prisons for major incidents of inmate-to-staff attacks, according to the analysis by The Augusta Chronicle. It ranked among the top five prisons for major inmate-to-inmate attacks 2008 through 2010, but attacks seemed to be slowing in 2011.
In August, however, violence reached lethal levels when Antonio Wiley was stabbed to death with homemade shanks in a prison yard; seven inmates have been charged. That stabbing was included in 23 inmate-on-inmate attacks recorded through Sept. 3, out of which 10 were classified “major incidents.”
Records from the state Department of Corrections show serious attacks against staff are high at ASMP when compared with other prisons. Through Sept. 3, ASMP has recorded 20 major incidents against staff, tying it for second place with Georgia Diagnostic State Prison, which has double the capacity. Coastal State Prison in Savannah topped the list with 21 incidents.
Incident reports from this year paint an often vivid account of life behind bars and the danger corrections officers dodge on a frequent basis.
On July 3, an inmate was found unresponsive in his cell, face down in a pool of blood. His roommate refused to be handcuffed so officers could enter the cell, and he had to be subdued with pepper spray. The injured inmate told officers that he had been beaten four times already and that this time he was beaten while sleeping.
“I just want to go home,” the inmate said in his report. “I don’t want any roommates. They say they are going to try and kill me … but I have done nothing to these people.”
In August, a corrections officer went to the emergency room with arm and back injuries after he was pulled through the flap of a cell door as he took the handcuffs off an inmate. Another officer was struck in the head by an inmate who had wrapped his fist with a chain, “stunning” the sergeant, according to a report.
The analysis shows ASMP often records more major than minor incidents, while the reverse usually holds true for higher-capacity prisons. In 2010, for instance, Georgia State Prison easily led in inmate-to-staff incidents with 244, but only one of those was classified as major. By comparison, ASMP, with a capacity of 1,126 versus Georgia State’s 1,255, reported 20 major incidents and three minor ones.
For “security reasons,” the Corrections Department refused to explain what distinguishes a minor incident from a major one and whether the classification varies between prisons. A request for comment Friday about the analysis was not answered.
Reviewing the incident reports at ASMP doesn’t make the difference clearer.
In two incidents in January and February, two inmates were sent to the emergency room with cuts to the scalp after they were struck in the head; one had been attacked with a lock in a sock. In an August incident that injured two inmates, one was taken by ambulance to the emergency with puncture wounds to the chest. In June, an inmate was sent to the emergency room for a CT scan with a bloody face and an eye swollen shut. In July, an inmate received a “bad laceration with soft tissue exposed.” All of these incidents were classified as minor.
Reports show corrections officers and nurses are routinely slapped, punched and harassed by inmates, but there’s also a disparity in how similar events are classified. In major incidents in May and August, an officer was splashed with urine and feces thrown from a cup. In a similar event, found in a report dated Aug. 6, a combination of urine and bleach was splashed onto an officer’s face, requiring him to go to the emergency room. The latter event is classified as minor.