A former Georgia prison guard faces up to 25 years behind bars and as many as six of his cohorts remain under intense investigation amid an ongoing federal probe. The charges allege inmates were so viciously, yet routinely beaten the state’s entire prison system may now border on the brink of anarchy.
The terse, yet explosive warning comes courtesy of a local civil rights group now spearheading the probe involving the case of 31-year-old inmate Terrance Dean. In December of 2010, Dean was beaten so severely by Macon State Prison guards he had to be rushed to an Atlanta hospital where he remained comatose and barely clinging to life suffering from massive head wounds for several weeks.
During that time, prison authorities conspired to keep Dean’s family in the dark about both his condition and whereabouts. The first word of his troubles leaked to family members came weeks later when an inmate used an illegal cell phone to contact his brother right around the start of the New Year.
Terrance Dean is now serving the remainder of his 20-year sentence for armed robbery of a Krystal’s hamburger franchise at a medical prison near Augusta where he’s been diagnosed with an acute brain injury and struggles to speak, walk or write while taking anti-seizure medication at least three times a day.
Late last month, the Dean family filed suit in U.S. District Court charging the “deliberate, sadistic and malicious” attack perpetrated by guards on their family member is part of a broader pattern of illegal conduct on the part of callous officers. The suit further alleges guards routinely took handcuffed inmates on a “walk” to a prison gymnasium non-equipped with video surveillance to stage their brutality.
"Things seem to be spiraling out of control," agreed Sarah Geraghty, a senior staff attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights, an Atlanta-based legal advocacy group. "We are seeing mass chaos, essentially, in many of the prisons."
Indeed, prison homicides across the state have drastically increased in recent times, as have other reported instances of violence and abuse, the roots of which many attribute to severe overcrowding on one end and negligible understaffing at the other. Just last year, the Southern Center for Human Rights likewise filed suit against the state alleging “systematic brutality” by guards at nearby Hays State Prison.
Named as defendants in the Dean suit are Christopher Hall, Kerry Bolden, Darren Douglass, Ronald Lach, Willie Redden, Delton Rushin and Derrick Wimbush. The lawsuit also names James Hinton, the prison’s deputy warden, and Kevin Davis, a prison supervisor, both of whom oversee overall security at the prison.
None of the seven guards involved still work at the prison, though a Macon County grand jury declined to indict any of them on charges ranging from aggravated battery to violation of oath of office in connection with the dastardly attack.
In addition, Douglass, 35, faces as many as 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal civil rights and conspiracy charges related to the attack on Dean and other inmates. Another former guard pled guilty to similar charges earlier in the year.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation interviewed all the guards alleged to have been involved in the Dean attack in the immediate days following the scuffle, according to the suit, and the range of emotions still seemed to run the gamut with one officer still asserting “Dean got what he deserved.”
Officers were called to Dean’s area of the dorm on the night of Dec. 16, after him and another guard, identified as Stephen Walden, began to quarrel and ultimately agreed to settle their beef by fighting in a dense area of the prison, during which Dean clearly got the better of the officer.
Seemingly within seconds, Hall, then a sergeant, now admits officers from his unit pounced on the unsuspecting Dean, dragging him to a nearby gymnasium where he was punched, kicked and stomped into unconsciousness.
For weeks, officers maintained Dean was injured only after he “snatched away” from the officers holding him and fell and hit his head while running away. “The inmates were wild,” said Hall. “It was a big change. Inmates assaulting the staff everywhere. People scared to come to work. The whole atmosphere was just chaos. All of it. “
There’s no denying Macon teetered on the edge of social unrest in those days with guards and inmates seemingly more at odds than usual stemming from an ongoing prisoner protest aimed at securing better work and living conditions for inmates across the state.
And yet, upon intense grilling by Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Trebor Randle, Hall all but embraces the theory of gross negligence on the part of officers by admitting that Dean was solely attacked for simply daring to stand up to a member of their glorified brethren.
"I don't think my guys meant to do it," Hall told Randle. "It just happened. They just went too far."
“The United States Constitution has long held that beating an inmate while he’s handcuffed and nonresistant is a violation of his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment,” chimed Dean family attorney Mario Williams. "I think they should be going up the chain," he said of assessing blame.
“They covered it up,” Willie Maud Dean, the victim’s mother, moaned to The Huffington Post. “They didn’t want us to know what they did to him. He couldn't stand up. He couldn't walk on his own. He couldn't talk. He couldn't use his hands."
Added older sister Stephanie Dean: "He's not the brother that went in there."
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.