Juvenile Justice

Published — March 14, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Attack at girls’ prison in Georgia raises questions about guards

Cleared of main charge, guards still face discipline


Three guards at a girls’ prison in Georgia have been cleared on a disturbing allegation, but one was fired and two were disciplined in connection with other misbehavior, our colleagues at the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange report.

It’s the latest in a series of allegations of violence, employee misconduct, corruption and other trouble inside Georgia’s juvenile detention system. The state’s new Juvenile Justice commissioner is scrutinizing its problematic history and suggesting reforms. One problem: The system’s guards are comparatively low-paid and there is frequent turnover.

A male ward in an Augusta, Ga. detention center was indicted in November and accused of beating another ward to death.

The latest scandal involving girls stems from an assault on a girl by another female ward inside a Rome, Ga., detention center in December. The victim, who has lacerations and a broken nose, alleged that the attack was instigated by guards; she alleged that the assault was payback because the victim had previously confided in her mother that guards had offered her food from outside the prison if she would fight another girl.

Guards passed lie-detector tests and were exonerated after insisting that this accusation and similar allegations of food bribes by other witnesses were false.

But there are still plenty of disturbing details about what when on inside the Rome facility and how the state officials handled this case. For one, officials charged the victim’s mother $135 just to get investigative documents related to the case.

And as the JJIE report explains, one guard was fired for failing to stop the assault even though she had heard the assailant planning it. Two others were disciplined in connection to prior allegations of leaving their posts for up to 90 minutes at a time — and also for bringing in outside food and other treats for some girls.

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