Inside Augusta State Medical Prison, Part II: Allegations of harassment, broken locks, poor communication

GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF)- People who say they used to work at Augusta State Medical Prison tell NewsChannel 6 the work environment there was hostile and dangerous, but not just because of inmates.

The prison holds more than 1,000 inmates. Some of them are housed there permanently because of mental or physical health needs, while others just pass through for medical attention.

NewsChannel 6 has spoken with four people who claim they worked as Correctional Officers at ASMP. We reached out to two of them on social media, while the other two reached out to us. None of them wanted to be identified because of fear of retribution.

"I've had several officers quit because of supervisors, because of harassment from their supervisors," one man told us.

He says often, officers didn't have what they needed to do their jobs or the energy the job required after long hours. One person I spoke said they did 16, 17, or 18 hour shifts, and then would have to do it all over again.

"It's a revolving door there. The pay's not the problem, It's the harassment from your supervisors," one man told us.

He says the physical enviornment was also an issue -- from gates broken, to gates just missing. He also says some lock-down units designed to keep inmates in their cells didn't have working locks.

One person we reached out to on social media wrote us, "Besides the plumbing leaking and the toilets not working, the safety doors no longer shut, the doors that separate the officers from the inmates no longer lock, the windows are busted out, the AC only works in the offices of the administration."

Another says radios used to communicate between officers were unreliable, both because the radios themselves wouldn't work and because there wouldn't always be someone available to respond on the other end.

Other people we spoke to have similar descriptions of the radios there.  One of them said "half of them don't work." Another person said they"never worked."

And there are quite a few emergencies in a medical prison when seconds matter in calling for backup. Suicide is one of them.

"Guy swallowing batteries, guy swallowing needles, whatever they can get their hands on to hurt themselves," one person said. "Guys cutting themselves open. Self-mutilation."

And if you do get someone on the radio?

"I've had to call my supervisor several times, and got a reply, 'let me know when he starts bleeding more.' Or 'let me know when he starts cutting more'," he said.

The Georgia Department of Corrections responded to a comment request for this story with the following statement:

"We are aware of the allegations made against Augusta State Medical Prison and we take them very seriously as the safety of our staff and offenders is a top priority. We are actively taking steps to fix those issues, which includes the reassignment of Ted Philbin as the new Warden of the facility. Philbin has more than two decades of experience with the Department and we feel he's a good fit at this time. His wealth of knowledge will greatly benefit the facility."

None of the people we spoke with say they worked under the new warden. Some of them say they've heard good things about the new leadership there.


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