published Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Hays State Prison inmate killed in transfer; prisoner is fourth in 2 months to die

A view out the front door of Hays State Prison, in Trion Ga., reveals one of the many watchtowers on the property.
A view out the front door of Hays State Prison, in Trion Ga., reveals one of the many watchtowers on the property.
Photo by Tim Barber.
UPDATED: Life and death at Hays State Prison

Dec. 19: 25-year-old inmate Derrick Stubbs dies from a severe beating

Dec. 26: 27-year-old inmate Damion MacClain dies after being strangled and beaten in his bed

Jan. 18: 31-year-old inmate Nathaniel Reynolds dies after being ambushed as he is escorted back to his dorm

Feb. 5: 19-year-old inmate dies after being taken from Hays to another state facility in south Georgia

Corrections officials haven't released how a Hays State Prison inmate was killed Tuesday shortly after he was taken to Georgia's highest level security prison in Jackson.

But sources at Hays say that after the 19-year-old inmate had his restraints removed at the Georgia Classification and Diagnostic Prison's transfer yard, he was killed by another Hays inmate who rode with him.

John Bankhead, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman, declined to say how the inmate died until an autopsy is complete.

The victim, who hasn't been named, is the fourth Hays inmate to be killed inside two months.

Department of Corrections officials say they are working to fix security problems, including locks that don't work, at Hays. They say they have kept the maximum security prison in Trion, Ga., on full lockdown since the third death on Jan. 8. A week after inmates weren't allowed to leave their cells, two guards were stabbed.

Corrections department officials said Tuesday they were too busy fixing the security problems at Hays to talk with a reporter and declined a Chattanooga Times Free Press request to interview Commissioner Brian Owens about the increased violence at Georgia prisons.

"The Department is actively working to implement our comprehensive security plan," said department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan in an email. "Due to our focused efforts, we do not have the resources to set up an interview."

Hays guards, who asked to be anonymous for fear of retaliation, said several Hays inmates were bused from Trion, Ga., to Jackson, Ga., on Tuesday as part of efforts to clean up the prison.

Before Tuesday's inmate death, several local lawmakers said they are concerned about the increased violence at Hays, but they are giving the department a chance to fix the problems before stepping in.

Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, didn't return calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

Gov. Nathan Deal's office didn't respond to questions about whether the governor is looking into the increased violence. His office referred all questions to the Department of Corrections.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called to investigate the killing at the Jackson facility, where all death penalty prisoners go, as well as inmates who are to be transferred to other prisons.

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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