published Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Hays State Prison guards settle abuse suit for $93,000

  • photo
    Hays State Prison is located just east of U.S. Highway 27, in Trion Ga.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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

A lawsuit accusing a dozen prison guards of beating, kicking and knocking out several handcuffed inmates at Hays State Prison was dismissed Friday after officers agreed to pay a $93,000 settlement.

"We think this recognizes that there is a problem with excessive force at Hays State Prison," said Atteeyah Hollie, an attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The Atlanta-based human rights group filed the civil lawsuit in July in federal court in Rome, Ga., on behalf of four inmates. The inmates claim they were beaten when officers responded to a fight in a nearby prison cell in August 2010.

Georgia Department of Corrections officials said they were reviewing questions from the Times Free Press about the suit, but didn't have a response by Friday afternoon.

This is the second time the human rights group has sued the maximum security prison in Trion, Ga., alleging excessive force. A suit was settled in 1997 on behalf of 14 men who claimed they were beaten without reason.

The recent settlement requires the officers listed in the suit to pay a total of $93,000 and says the state must provide certain medical care to the injured inmates, Kathryn Hamoudah, a spokeswoman for the human rights group, said in a news release.

The Department of Corrections has made arrangements to pay the funds for the 10 officers and two supervisors listed in the suit, according to Hollie. The settlement will be divided among the inmates based on the extent of their injuries, Hollie said.

The inmates -- Miracle Nwakanma, Cornelius Spencer, Gregory Haines and Eric Towns -- claim they did nothing to provoke the guards.

On Aug. 12, 2010, 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.

After ordering the four inmates to enter a 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.

Each of the men were threatened and assaulted, the suit claims, and Towns, a convicted armed robber, and Spencer were beaten until they were unconscious.

Hays State Prison also had a recent inmate-related death. In August, an inmate was stabbed to death with a handmade knife by multiple inmates in the early morning hours.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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