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Detainee Tunnels Through Walls of Decrepit Atlanta Jail to Stab Fellow Detainee

by Jo Ellen Nott

The question must be asked: How did one detainee dig a tunnel to another’s cell – via a shower area, no less – to attack him? Did no guard notice an impromptu construction project was happening on his or her watch? Happen it did though, at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta on May 17, 2023.

Kavian Thomas managed to dig a tunnel into a shower stall first. That gave him access to the adjacent cell block and someone there he then stabbed repeatedly with a prison-made weapon. That someone was fellow prisoner Derondney Russell, who sustained “superficial stab wounds to his upper body” and was treated in the medical unit of the jail.

Thomas has had several brushes with the law. A public indecency offense from December 2019 led to a suspended sentence. Other charges from earlier in 2019 were previously dismissed by prosecutors — including counts for armed robbery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and weapons possession. Police records show that a theft case from that year ended with Thomas’ transfer to the state Department of Corrections, however.

On March 6, 2023, Thomas picked up his most recent charges: first-degree arson, first-degree criminal damage to property, riot in a penal institution and willful obstruction of law enforcement officers.  Before those were filed, he faced pending charges from November 2022of theft, marijuana possession, and being a felon in receipt, possession, or transport of a firearm. According to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, charges are now also pending in connection with the alleged jail attack in May 2023.

The weapon that Thomas used to attack Russell with was a shank fashioned from a broken-off piece of the jail, as were other shanks found in the two cells after the attack. When WSB interviewed Curtis Clark, the jail’s interim commander, Clark he showed the news team broken-down parts of the building that prisoners could turn into weapons. He also admitted that he had lost sleep since he was put in charge of the facility.

Clark emphasized the jail’s deteriorated condition in a press release about the incident, writing that “[t]his jail has clearly outlived its useful life.”

“That reality makes it even more challenging for us to do our job providing the safest possible environment, not only for staff but for the inmates as well,” he added.

Another detainee at the jail on Rice Street died in September 2022 after he was reportedly “eaten alive” by vermin infesting his disgustingly filthy cell. [See: PLN, May 2023, p.16.] Detainees were left without flushing toilets or heat for three days when those systems broke down in January 2023. [See: PLN, January 9, 2023, online.]

Additional sources: ABC News, Law & Crime

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