published Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Hays State Prison warden, Clay Tatum, ousted

Hays State Prison
Hays State Prison
Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
UPDATED: Life and death at Hays State Prison
  • photo
    Former Hays State Prison Warden Clay Tatum
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    Rick Jacobs has been assigned as the Acting Warden at Hays State Prison.


Dec. 19: Inmate Derrick Stubbs, 25, dies from a severe beating at the hands of other inmates

Dec. 26: Inmate Damion MacClain, 27, dies after being strangled and beaten in his bed by other inmates

Jan. 18: Nathaniel Reynolds, 31, dies after being ambushed by other inmates as he is escorted back to his dorm

Jan. 27: Two Hays guards are stabbed even though the prison is on full lockdown

Jan. 31: Southern Center for Human Rights calls for impartial prison expert to evaluate the violence at Hays and explore solutions

Feb. 5: Hays inmate Pippa Hall-Jackson, 19, is stabbed to death by another Hays inmate after stepping off a bus at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison's transfer yard in Jackson, Ga.

Feb. 6: Hays warden Clay Tatum is replaced

Roughly 24 hours after a fourth Hays State Prison inmate was killed, Georgia corrections officials ordered the warden of the maximum-security facility replaced.

Clay Tatum had been warden at the prison in Trion, Ga., for 2 1/2 years.

But the death of inmate Derrick Stubbs on Dec. 19 after a severe beating at the hands of other inmates turned out to be the beginning of the end of Tatum's tenure.

Scrutiny increased with each successive killing -- Damion MacClain on Dec. 26 and Nathaniel Reynolds on Jan. 18 -- both slain by other inmates. Eleven days later, two guards were stabbed by inmates even though the prison was on full lockdown.

With Georgia lawmakers and the media asking questions and an Atlanta-based human rights group calling for an independent investigation, the killing of a fourth Hays inmate was enough to warrant Tatum's removal.

Rick Jacobs, field operations manager for the Department of Corrections and one of Tatum's supervisors -- has been appointed acting warden. Tatum will be reassigned, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said.

Jacobs said safety for the community and the prison is his first priority as acting warden.

The change at Hays comes on the heels of escalating violence and security lapses inside the prison. Families of some inmates said they have felt forced to pay cash to inmates under threat of violence to their loved ones. Locks don't work. Some guards as well as inmates said they didn't feel safe.

In the latest death, Hays inmate Pippa Hall-Jackson, 19, had just stepped off a bus at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison's transfer yard in Jackson, Ga., when sources say another Hays inmate stabbed him in the chest. State investigators called the death a homicide but haven't made any arrests.

Hall-Jackson was serving time on a conviction for aggravated assault.

Corrections officials say Jacobs was assigned to take over at Hays because of his extensive experience in the department. They say they are confident in his leadership.

"Rick is an exceptional leader and dedicated team member," said Commissioner Brian Owens in a prepared statement.

Jacobs, a Rome, Ga., native, was warden at Hays from 2009 to mid-2010 when Owens promoted him to the operations manager position.

Lawmakers agree Jacobs can help restore order, and they see his earlier experience at Hays as a plus.

"It's another example of the Department of Corrections assessing the situation and taking action to bring the prison back to where it needs to be," said state Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette.

Gov. Nathan Deal said in a prepared statement that he is working with corrections officials until the transition of management at Hays is complete.

But lawmakers admit it's going to take more than a new warden to fix Hays.

"It's one of the ways we're addressing the problems," said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome. "This in and of itself isn't going to solve the many problems."

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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