Collusion alleged between prison guards and inmates

11:49 PM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- In the Georgia prison system, it's called a "shakedown."  It's when a special security team searches, cell by cell, for contraband stashed by inmates.  

But at Hays State Prison, the shakedowns are rigged -- according to an affidavit from a retired Corrections department supervisor, obtained by the Southern Center for Human Rights. 

It describes an order by a deputy warden "to give inmates advance notice that tactical squads were coming to search the prison for contraband."

"And they were told to tell the inmates that if they behaved and did as they were told, they would be rewarded with buckets of chicken and pizza," said Sarah Geraghty, senior attorney with the Southern Center.

The motivation behind the alleged collusion is curiously familiar.  According to the affidavit, it's virtually the same as the motivation in the alleged corruption behind the Atlanta public school scandal: To improve the evaluation scores of state prisons.

The affidavit says the "relatively small amount of contraband found during this shakedown reflected well on Hays prison administrators." The affidavit was sworn by a 20 year Corrections department employee who is now retired.

The northwest Georgia prison has drawn the attention of human rights activists in part because three Hays inmates have died there since December at the hands of other inmates, according to prison records obtained by the Southern Center.  

A September internal audit showed that of 442 cell locks, 184 were "defeated" by inmates -- meaning there were four out of ten "cell door locks that will not deadlock."  Geraghty, who obtained the documents, says it makes Hays dangerous for inmates and for prison guards.

"The state has a responsibility to those officers to provide a safe working environment. And that's clearly not what was happening at this prison," she said.

The Corrections Department did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

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