After three prisoner deaths in two months at Hays State Prison in northwest Georgia, state officials say they may have addressed one of the root causes of violence at the high-security facility: locks that don’t lock.
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Every state prison in Georgia is inspected at least once a year. Among the things auditors check is how a prison’s locks and locking systems work. Problems have been discovered at several high-security prisons.
- At Hays State Prison in September, inspectors reported a “high number of cell door locks that will not deadlock.” Of 442 locks inspected, 184 were defeated.
- The lowest score was a 41 out of 100 given to Valdosta State Prison, where Nine Trey Bloods gang leader Darryl Christmas was stabbed to death during an attack by several inmates on Nov. 27. Auditors questioned whether security staff was conducting the required daily lock inspections.
- The Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, home of death row, scored an 81 in October. Auditors found a “high number of cell doors that will not deadlock.” More than 18 percent of checked locks were defeated by auditors.
- At Hancock State Prison, where a November 2011 riot left 12 prisoners hospitalized, the state purchased more than 300 switches for locking control panels. But as of June 2012, 200 had yet to be installed. Of the 240 locks inspected, 68 failed. Last month, however, Hancock won a score of 96 after auditors found just 15 of 432 locks failed.
- Only two of 255 locks at Telfair State Prison failed tests in April while four of 590 were defeated at Phillips State Prison in May.
Source: Department of Corrections maintenance audits
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed more than 150 pages of audits and dozens of incident reports of inmate violence at some of Georgia’s most dangerous prisons. That in-depth examination revealed the ongoing struggle the Department of Corrections faces in securing tens of thousands of inmates amid continuing budget cuts.