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With Guard Arrests at Georgia Jail, Sheriff Asks, “What Are We Doing Wrong?”

As much as he works to maintain a highly trained and ethical staff, Sheriff Richard Roundtree of Georgia’s Richmond County finds the goal elusive. As of August 2023, 33 deputies had been arrested over the last three years, most of them guards at the county jail.

Roundtree has been the county’s elected sheriff since 2012, responsible for its George B. Webster Detention Center (GWDC), a 1,050-bed jail on Augusta’s outskirts. Like most county jails in the U.S., GWDC wrestles with overcrowding and understaffing—a staff of 225 works 12-hour shifts—making conditions worse for both detainees and guards. Roundtree acknowledges those factors but says the high rate of guard misconduct is linked to making easy money.

Many of his 33 arrested employees have been caught smuggling contraband into the jail, but some were accused of assaulting detainees or having sex with them. Still others faced off-duty allegations include domestic violence and driving while intoxicated. All 33 guards were fired or resigned, including Demondre Mahoney, who was charged with smuggling contraband in June 2023, as PLN reported. [See PLN, Aug. 2023, p.63.]

Guards Gerardo Sanchez Jr., 28, and Joshua Jackson, 21, were fired after an internal affairs investigation into a February 2023 incident found they pummeled a compliant detainee. They were charged with simple battery and violation of oath of office. Roundtree said he was “trying to identify gaps in training and culture that might lead to such behavior.”

In the latest arrest in June 2023, guard Arrington Mursier left his assigned station and went to another jail housing unit, where video captured him removing a detainee from his cell and taking him into a storage closet. The sheriff reported that a large amount of synthetic marijuana, or K2, was found there. Both guard and detainee were hit with drug charges, Mursier charged with violation of oath, as well. In his home, investigators found pre-packaged bags of K2 with an estimated street value of $195,000.

“It’s all about the money,” said Roundtree, noting that a guard can make up to $2,000 per drop to smuggle contraband into the jail. He says low guard pay makes it difficult to recruit and keep good people and more tempting to smuggle drugs or other contraband. So he wants the county to fund higher salaries, which now start at $40,699. Richmond County-Augusta Commission member Wayne Guilfoyle disagreed, saying Roundtree just needs “to raise his standards on the quality of people he’s hiring.”

Roundtree says he is considering more thorough background checks and expanded training to curb misconduct. The sheriff also wants funding to purchase full-body scanners and enhance supervision of staff, especially their movements in and out of the jail.

Augusta criminal defense and civil rights attorney Tanya Jeffords said that “33 arrests in three years indicate that the problems in the jail have gotten too serious to overlook.”

Another county resident has a bone to pick with the sheriff, but not about arrests. Citing concerns about an investigation into a vehicle crash in his driveway, Eric Loggins initiated a recall effort in September 2023. He failed to gather the required 100 signatures.  


Sources: NBC News, WRDW

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