- Video surfaced showing Georgia officers beating a man “mercilessly” in his cell, his lawyers say.
- The prison is facing at least two lawsuits alleging that another inmate used excessive force.
- Civil rights experts told Insiders that Georgia jails and jails are plagued by a “culture of violence.”
A Georgia jail where officers were caught on video beating a 41-year-old inmate in his cell is facing a lawsuit from a former sergeant who reported excessive use of force against another inmate.
Sergeant Jennie Sikes was fired earlier this year after she asked for disciplinary action against the officers, according to a lawsuit filed in Camden County Superior Court in April.
Over the past two years, Camden County Jail officials have faced multiple allegations of excessive and unnecessary violence against inmates. Civil rights experts who spoke to Insider said the incidents are representative of a broader trend in Georgia’s jails and prisons, where violence is persistent and ongoing.
The Camden County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The Woodbine, Georgia jail resurfaced in the news early last week with the release of Disturbing video surveillance which shows several Camden officers beating an inmate and dragging him outside.
Inmate Jarrett Hobbs was incarcerated at the Camden County Jail. Surveillance released by Hobbs’ attorneys and dated September 3 shows a group of officers unlocking and entering his cell. Then they seem to be pinning him against the wall, at least three officers start throwing punches at him. Hobbs’ attorneys have asked the district attorney to file charges against the officers involved in the incident.
A lawsuit filed in April in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia by a man serving time in the Camden County Jail details a separate incident involving Camden officials that his attorneys allege it happened on January 24th. The lawsuit was filed against Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor and several correctional officers and employees of the sheriff’s office.
Camden officers arrested Adam Drummond, of Ohio, who did not answer questions from officers during the admissions process, the complaint said. According to the complaint, Drummond was neither aggressive nor combative and did not say he was carrying any prohibited materials.
But officers took him to a room without cameras to strip search him, the lawsuit says, where they “beat him on the head and face, and shoulders and torso.”
“Following the incident, Mr. Drummond’s blood pooled on the floor,” the complaint said. “There was so much blood that it couldn’t just be wiped up with towels, the whole floor had to be mopped.”
Officers then detained Drummond and ignored him as he “began asking for medical attention,” according to the lawsuit. He did not receive medical attention until the next day, when officers told the examining nurse that he was “faking” his injuries and pain, according to the suit.
When Drummond posted bail, officers threatened him with additional charges unless he wrote a false statement that he was the one who “initiated physical contact with the officers,” according to the lawsuit. Drummond wrote that statement, the lawsuit says, and he was released from prison.
The next day, Sikes, who was then an employee of the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, reviewed the incident report and records of the event, according to a complaint in a separate lawsuit filed by Sikes.
Sikes “concluded that the use of force was unnecessary and unjustified,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Camden County Superior Court. After Sikes reached their conclusion, officers were told they “would not receive punishment because punishment would mean that we admit we did something wrong,” according to the lawsuit.
Two months after conducting her investigation, Sikes noticed that her job duties were being scaled back. The next month, according to Camden County’s lawsuit, she was fired.
Hobbs’ attorneys also pointed out that Camden County officials fatally shot a 37-year-old woman named Latoya James in May 2021 while she was serving a drug-related search warrant at her cousin’s home.
Hobbs’ attorneys said he was arrested for three nonviolent offenses: speeding, driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license and possession of a controlled substance. On the night of the incident, his lawyers said he was going through a mental health crisis and asked that officers place him in protective custody.
“But instead of protecting him, these congressmen jumped on him and mercilessly punched and kicked him like a gang of dangerous thugs,” said Harry Daniels, a civil rights attorney representing Hobbs.
After nailing him to the wall and beating him in his cell, officers take Hobbs into a hallway, a second video shows them continuing to beat him.
According to a press release from Hobbs’ attorneys, officers ripped one of his dreadlocks from his scalp and denied him medical treatment. After the beating, the release states, they put him in solitary confinement and charged him with assault.
The “Culture of Violence” in Georgian Prisons and Prisons
Georgia’s detention system has a history of violence and harsh living conditions for inmates, civil rights experts told Insider.
“Georgia’s jails and prisons are in chaos and crisis stemming from understaffing, overcrowding, squalid conditions, a total lack of adequate physical and mental health care, and a correctional culture that allows for impunity,” said Christina Remlin, director of Impact Litigation Unit for the Southern Center for Human Rights.
According to Maxwell Ruppersburg, executive director of Reform Georgia, violent incidents committed by officers employed in prisons and jails in Georgia often go under the radar.
“There is no central administration of the county jail system statewide, and as a result there is insufficient oversight and standards of care statewide,” Ruppersburg told Insider.
An investigation by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution found that three county jails in the state had recorded their highest death tolls in more than 10 years last year.
Issues brought to light by civil rights groups prompted the Justice Department last year to launch an investigation into conditions in Georgia prisons. A Justice Department press release released last year said the inquiry will focus on an investigation into prisoner-on-prisoner violence and whether officers are adequately protecting inmates from violence.
Among the biggest problems contributing to inadequate care and difficult living conditions are overcrowding and understaffing, Remlin said.
The DOJ’s investigation doesn’t extend to prisons, so its scope is limited, Remlin noted. And the state of Georgia doesn’t track staffing issues in its prisons, making it difficult to quantify just how great the need is.
Also of concern is the “tendency to cover up wrongdoing,” Remlin added.
A Clayton County prison worker claimed in an interview with Fox 5 Atlanta last year that he was fired after pointing out problems at the facility. Like Sikes, Terry Evans, a former Clayton County sheriff, said he was demoted after opposing the decision to bring a murder suspect to the infirmary along with an inmate serving time on lesser charges. Evans was eventually fired, he said in an interview.
Last month, a federal jury convicted Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill of six counts of violating the rights of inmates.
Hill was charged with ordering his employees to use excessive force on four detainees, causing them “physical pain and injury,” according to a DOJ release.
“When you have an atmosphere where there’s a willingness all the way up to do things like put people in restraint chairs and then hurt them even more, that creates a culture of violence,” Remlin said.
Remlin said she remains “concerned for the safety of every single person in Georgia who is sleeping in a prison because they just aren’t safe right now.”