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Friday, May 20, 2005

Three prison officers suspended amid allegations of beatings

The Associated Press - REIDSVILLE, Ga.

Three officers at Rogers State Prison have been suspended while investigators looking into allegations that inmates are routinely beaten while handcuffed.

Prison officials said Thursday that Lt. Reginald Langston, Lt. Rodney McCloud and Sgt. Jason Burns were suspended with pay and are subjects of an investigation, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

But officials said none of the three have been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

"Let me make it clear, we take all allegations of inmate abuse seriously," Department of Corrections spokeswoman Scheree Lipscomb said. "And if these allegations are found to be true, there will be swift and appropriate action taken."

Rogers is a medium-security prison in Reidsville, near Georgia State Prison, which houses the most dangerous felons. Many of Rogers' inmates work in farm, dairy, vegetable canning and slaughterhouse operations, which produce nearly half the food for state inmates. Most inmates at Rogers are considered nonviolent and trusted enough to work in the food and farm programs.

The investigation began when Tommy Cardell, a guard the prison, told Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents he witnessed 20 to 30 beatings of handcuffed inmates at the prison, where he worked for the past three years. Cardell claims he was fired May 11 after reporting the beatings to internal affairs investigators at the state Department of Corrections.

After The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Assistant Commissioner Brian Owens about the allegations, the Corrections Department sent investigators the prison Wednesday. On Thursday, prison officials announced the suspension of the three officers, who supervise guards, and said the GBI has been asked to investigate.

According to Cardell, handcuffed inmates were often taken into showers and punched and kicked in a manner that would leave no cuts or major bruises. He claims superiors gave him black, leather gloves with padding, and told him to wear them when giving such beatings.

"They're supposed to be to protect yourself from someone swinging a weapon," Cardell said. "But that's not quite what they're used for."

Cardell also says top prison administrators witnessed some of the beatings. In one case, Cardell says he saw an inmate make a flippant remark to Warden Glenn Rich. Cardell said Rich then ordered the inmate out of the cell and the inmate was taken into a shower and beaten so severely he later coughed up blood.

Cardell also claims prison medical staff helped cover up the severity of the beating.

In another instance, Cardell said he saw an officer handcuff an inmate and drag him through the prison, using him as a "battering ram" to open metal doors. The officer repeatedly kicked him in his legs and groin, Cardell said.

Lipscomb said prison officials had no comment on any of Cardell's specific allegations.


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