published Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Four Georgia inmates sue, claim they were beaten by Hays guards

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Lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Correction
Lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Correction

A civil rights group is suing the Georgia Department of Corrections on behalf of four inmates who say they were severely beaten at Hays State Prison last year.

The Southern Center for Human Rights claims a group of prison officers punched, stomped on, kicked and knocked several of the men unconscious after responding to a fight at a nearby prison cell on Aug. 12.

This is the second time the center’s attorneys have sued Hays State Prison in Trion, Ga., over allegations that guards assaulted inmates, The Associated Press reported. The center settled a civil rights lawsuit in 1997 on behalf of 14 men who claimed they were subjected to unprovoked beatings.

Georgia Department of Corrections officials declined to comment on the latest case, citing pending litigation.

Atteeyah Hollie, an attorney with the human rights center, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The federal suit, filed in Rome, Ga., Tuesday, asks for punitive damages and seeks an order to end alleged continuing physical abuses.

Ten officers and two supervisors are listed in the suit.

The four inmates — Miracle Nwakanma, Cornelius Spencer, Gregory Haines and Eric Towns — who later were transferred to other prisons — claim they did nothing to provoke the guards.

About 2 p.m. that day, the suit claims, the four men saw several guards beating inmates in a nearby dormitory. When the prison’s Correctional Emergency Response Team entered the dorm, the building was put on lockdown, but in the process an unknown inmate assaulted an officer, the suit says.

At the same time, Spencer, who is serving a life sentence for murder, came out of the shower and tried to enter his cell. An officer ordered Spencer to the ground and he was kicked in the face, the suit claims.

Officers then ordered all inmates into another dorm. As Haines, who is serving a 20-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery, walked to the stairs, he was slammed into the wall, then attacked by three officers, the suit claims.

When the men were all inside the dorm, Capt. Timothy Clark, who is named first in the suit, asked, “Who hurt my officer?” He then commanded his officers to “give them something they can send pictures to their mammas,” the suit claims.

One by one the men were threatened and assaulted, the suit claims, with Towns, a convicted armed robber, and Spencer beaten until they fell unconscious.

When Towns regained consciousness, he heard Nwakanma, a convicted murderer, screaming, the suit says.

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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