By BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
In this, the first of several reports on the aftermath of the courageous protest of Georgia prisoners last December, we update the case of Terrance Dean, brutally beaten by prison guards at Macon State Prison on December 16, 2009, and the role played by TOPS, The Ordinary Peoples Society, in working with his family and legal team, and in the larger struggle to roll back the nation’s policy of mass incarceration.
Three months after inmate protests at multiple Georgia prisons, public records have emerged to document the vicious assault and battery committed upon handcuffed prisoner Terrance Dean by correctional officers and supervisors of Macon State Prison. The arrest warrants sworn out for one of seven Georgia prison guards arrested in late February alleges that one Christopher Hall, the supervising officer, “was present at the time of this assault [on Terrance Dean], and supervised this act in his capacity as the C.E.R.T. supervisor’”
“Dean has suffered severe and life-altering injuries as a result of his battering by correctional officers, according to his attorney, “Mr. Dean has visited three different medical facilities due to his injuries. He’s now at Augusta State Medical Prison, where he receives extensive rehabilitation including speech pathology and daily physical/motor skills rehab so that hopefully he can someday walk, speak and write normally again.”
For almost two weeks after the vicious assault Georgia’s Department of Corrections failed to notify the prisoner’s family of Dean’s beating, his critical condition or his whereabouts. It was only when tips reached Dean’s family from inside the prison that his sister Wendy Johnson knew something had happened to him. When state officials finally admitted he had been critically injured, the Dean family helped Terrance Dean retain an attorney, Mario Williams of Williams Oinonen LLC. And on the recommendation of other prisoners and their families, the Dean family reached out to Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, founder of The Ordinary Peoples Society, an advocacy organization founded by former inmates. TOPS had been working with current and former prisoners and their families across the southeast for more than a decade.
We waged a successful struggle over several years to restore voting rights not just to former prisoners in Alabama, but to many of the people still serving their time,” Rev. Glasgow told us. “We’ve been providing housing, counseling and a new start to people coming out of the prisons for a good while. And we’ve been assisting the self-help networks of prisoners still on the inside who want to begin healing themselves, their families and eventually their communities when they reach the outside. So it’s no surprise that Ms. Johnson came to us. We checked the references of her Atlanta attorney, and found he came highly recommended. We’ve been working closely with Mr. Dean’s family and their legal team since that point.”
Inside sources and public records requested by Dean’s attorney, along with known facts of the case together paint a horrifying picture of brutality imposed and impunity enjoyed by correctional officers in Georgia. Allegedly, after a verbal altercation with an officer, Dean was placed in handcuffs and taken to a secluded part of the prison. There he was beaten nearly to death. The Department of Corrections made no effort to contact Dean’s family, only admitting he had been injured and transferred when the family and community members demanded to know his condition and whereabouts in front of news media nearly two weeks later.
Dean’s family and their attorneys expect to pursue civil remedies against those responsible for the near-fatal beating.
“The fact that the State of Georgia pressed charges against the officers for aggravated battery is a great first step; the Georgia Bureau of Investigations obviously showed a lot of integrity throughout its investigation,” declared Dean’s Attorney. “More needs to be done, such as better and more training for Correctional Emergency Response Team members on the constitutional limits of force. The Department of Corrections has the ability to require more than the State mandated one hour per year of training in this area.”
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society agrees.
“We know that the brutal beatings by correctional staff and attempts to cover them up are a daily fact of life in prisons across the nation.”
“This is why The Ordinary Peoples Society, along with other groups of concerned former prisoners convened the first national meeting of Formerly Incarcerated People the week before last in Selma and Montgomery Alabama. We had representatives of the formerly incarcerated present from all 50 states, and committed ourselves to ongoing action around rolling back the nation’s policy of mass incarceration. We know we cannot change the prisons without a massive program to educate our neighbors on how more prisons have made us less safe, less prosperous, and less secure. Our next national meeting of the formerly incarcerated will be in Los Angeles this November. We’re in this, with prisoners, their families and communities, for the long haul.”
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and based in Marietta GA, where he is also a state committee member of the Green Party of Georgia. He can be contacted at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport