The Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) at Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe, GA has been accused of conspiring with the Deputy Warden to assault prison inmates. The Department of Justice reported on Tuesday that seven former members of the CERT team, Christopher Hall, Ronald Lach, Jr., Delton Rushin, Kerry Bolden, Derrick Wimbush, Kadarius Thomas, and Tyler Griffin, along with Deputy Warden James Hinton, allegedly conspired to assault inmates and covered up their misconduct by filing false reports as well as feeding investigators misleading information.
In 2011, a Macon State Prison inmate filed a lawsuit after he was brutally beaten by corrections officers. The Associated Press reported that inmate Terrance Dean, who was a part of a multiple-prison sit-down strike protesting intolerable work and living conditions, was involved in an altercation with a prison guard, for which he was handcuffed, dragged into the prison gym, and beaten almost to death.
Dean, who described the event as a “deliberate, sadistic, and malicious attack” by the prison guards, told the U.S. District court that his attack was just a part of a broader system of abuse of power and illegal conduct by prison authorities. Seven guards, in addition to Deputy Warden James Hinton, faced charges of aggravated battery and violation of oath of office; however, a Macon County grand jury declined to indict them.
Of the seven guards named in Dean’s lawsuit, Hall, Lach, Rushin, Bolton, and Wimbush are now being indicted for conspiracy and obstruction charges. If convicted, the prison officers face maximum sentences of 10 years for the civil rights conspiracy charge, 10 years for the civil rights violation, and 20 years for each count of obstruction.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation initially conducted an investigation of the Macon State Prison, and an FBI investigation into organized brutality of the Macon State Prison system is ongoing. The Southern Center for Human Rights reportedly described a state-wide outbreak of violence in the Georgia prison system that is “spiraling out of control.”
Sarah Geraghty, a spokeswoman from the Atlanta-based human rights advocacy group, noted that “Homicides have spiked in Georgia prisons, which are overcrowded and understaffed…” “We are seeing mass chaos, essentially, in many of the prisons,” she told reporters last year.