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$93,000 Settlement for Georgia State Prisoners Beaten by Guards

The Georgia Department of Corrections has paid $93,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by four state prisoners who were subjected to retaliatory beatings by guards at Hays State Prison.

At approximately 2:00 p.m. on August 12, 2010, the plaintiff prisoners – Miracle Nwakanma, Cornelius Spencer, Gregory Haines and Eric Towns – heard a commotion in their prison dorm, D2. At the front of the dorm, a group of prisoners were looking through the dorm’s glass windows into the adjacent cellblock, D1.

When they observed dorm D1, they saw officers using excessive force against unresisting prisoners. Spencer saw a guard hit an unresisting prisoner with a radio. Haines watched two guards ram an unresisting prisoner into a wall, and saw another guard punching a handcuffed and unresisting prisoner in the back. Several of the prisoners in D2 yelled and banged on the window in an effort to stop the excessive force being used on prisoners in D1.

A short time later, numerous guards from the prison’s Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) and other guards entered dorm D2, screamed “lock down,” and fired a device that dispersed pepper spray. During the lock down process an unidentified prisoner assaulted a guard, which provoked retaliatory beatings. The four plaintiff prisoners, who did not lock down in time, were taken, singularly, to the Special Management unit to be beaten.

While handcuffed, Nwakanma was punched, stomped, kicked in the groin and face, struck with a flashlight, hit with batons and beaten until he was unconscious. He suffered injuries that included splintered teeth, a fractured toe, a fractured jaw and possible neurological damage. Oral surgery was later required to repair the damage to his face.

Spencer was also handcuffed when he was punched, kicked and beaten with a baton-like object until he vomited and lost consciousness. He suffered a baseball-sized hematoma to the head, a fractured toe and other injuries. Towns was kicked in the head, beaten with a baton on his bare feet and struck in the head with a baton while handcuffed until he was unconscious. Finally, Haines was handcuffed while he was kneed and kicked in the face and punched.

The February 17, 2012 settlement was the second time the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR), which represented the plaintiffs, had secured monetary compensation for prisoners assaulted by guards at Hays State Prison. A 1997 lawsuit on behalf of 14 prisoners who were beaten for no apparent reason resulted in a $283,500 settlement, including damages and attorney fees. [See: PLN, Oct. 1998, p.12].

“We think this recognizes that there is a problem with excessive force at Hays State Prison,” noted Atteyah E. Hollie, an SCHR attorney, after the most recent settlement. See: Nwakanma v. Clark, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ga.), Case No. 4:11-cv-00188-HLM.

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Related legal case

Nwakanma v. Clark