8 Georgia prisons locked down after death, brawl, gang feuds

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ATLANTA (AP) – Eight Georgia prisons are on lockdown after a bloody June that included the killing of an inmate in one prison that prompted murder charges against a guard and three gang members, and a brawl at another facility that sent 16 inmates to hospitals, authorities said Wednesday.

The lockdowns are a response to rising tensions between prison gangs following the violence, the Georgia Department of Corrections said in a statement.

On June 11, inmate Joshua Brooks was found unresponsive in his cell at Calhoun State Prison in southwest Georgia. An autopsy later found that he’d died of blunt force trauma, leading to murder charges against a correctional officer, Shakera Burns, and three inmates, prisons spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said in a statement. She described the three prisoners as gang members.

Then, on June 20, multiple fights between several gangs broke out in Smith State Prison in south Georgia, Hogan said. None of the 16 inmates suffered life-threatening injuries, and all have been returned to the prison, she said. “Due to this, the department made the decision to place these prisons on lockdown to ensure the safety of the inmates, staff and overall operations,” Hogan said. Authorities are not saying which gangs are involved “because it would give them notoriety,” she said.

Other incidents – some gang-related and others not – have occurred at six other prisons across the state in recent weeks, authorities said.

Since the prisons are on lockdown, visitation times have been cancelled at Calhoun and Smith, as well as state prisons in Valdosta, Waycross, Pelham, Sparta, Oglethorpe and Helena, authorities said.

The department didn’t say whether there was a link between the violence at different prisons, but inmates in Georgia are known to have used smuggled cellphones to communicate with people beyond their prison walls to coordinate and carry out various crimes.

The smuggling of cellphones into state prisons has been a major problem nationwide. In Georgia prisons alone, the department said more than 11,000 cellphones were seized last year.

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