The recent stabbing death of an Augusta State Medical Prison inmate is one of 34 homicides in Georgia prisons since 2010, according to a new report by the Southern Center for Human Rights.
The center has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the state’s prison system, which the center contends is unable to protect its employees or inmates.
Calls to the public affairs officer at the Department of Corrections were not returned last week.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is working on the latest killing at the Augusta prison. Pat Morgan, the special agent in charge of the local GBI office, said he anticipates a suspect will be charged this week in the June 29 stabbing death of Shannon Grier.
Grier, 29, is the third homicide victim at the prison since 2011.
It’s not just the homicides that are detailed in the center’s report, The Crisis of Violence in Georgia’s Prisons. It notes dozens of violent attacks by inmates, including an April 25 stabbing of an Augusta State Medical Prison inmate.
According to an incident report, a guard had escorted Durante Smith back to his cell, where another inmate was lying in wait. LaMorris Russell stabbed Smith twice in the back before the guard was able to pull Smith away, the report said. Russell had been able to get out of his own cell by breaking the lock.
The center contends that many cell locks in prisons throughout the state are broken and have been for years. The report cites prison audits since 2008 that found cell locks could be easily opened. An audit in 2012 found nearly half of the 442 locks examined could be opened without a key.
In February 2013, the Corrections Department finally obtained a contract for new locks at Hays State Prison after four inmates were killed in seven weeks.
Although Hays is classified as a close security facility, violent attacks are common. According to the report, from July 2012 to January 2013, 33 inmates were beaten or stabbed.
The center contends that supervision is dangerously inadequate and that prisoners are routinely assaulted without any guard intervention, even when attacks have spanned days.
At Baldwin State Prison, an inmate was attacked Sept. 1, 2012, by a group of prisoners who dragged him into a bathroom and stomped, punched and kicked him in the head, then poured scalding water on his groin and raped him with a broomstick.
The center contends that gangs are controlling the prisons, and weapons and cellphones are easy to get.
At Ware State Prison in May 2012, 25 knives were recovered in two days. The next month, an inmate was chased down by men wielding machetes and had three of his fingers cut off, according to the report.
So far this year, three inmates have been killed in Georgia prisons in Augusta, Macon and Glennville.
In 2013, eight men were killed, including 48-year-old Chris Todd Lowery, who was strangled at Augusta State Medical Prison on July 6, 2013. A ninth death was cited by the center, although the Corrections Department classified it as a suicide. The center cited the death certificate’s findings that the man died of ligature strangulation and suffered multiple blunt force trauma.
In 2012, nine inmates were killed and Telfair State Prison Correctional Officer Larry Stells was stabbed to death by a prisoner.
In 2011, seven inmates were killed, including 30-year-old Antonio Wiley, who was fatally stabbed Aug. 28, 2011, at the Augusta State Medical Prison.
In 2010, seven inmates were homicide victims in Georgia state prisons.