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Georgia inmate fatally shoots food service worker at Smith State Prison

Prison cell. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/The Charlotte Observer/TNS)

In an extraordinary breach of security, a Georgia state prison inmate shot and killed an Aramark food service employee Sunday at Smith State Prison in Glennville.

The Georgia Department of Corrections said the incident happened at 4:30 a.m. when Jaydrekus Hart shot the worker while working in the prison kitchen. The inmate then shot himself, the GDC said, and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“The weapon is in GDC custody at this time, and a complete and thorough investigation of what led up to this tragic incident will be carried out,” the GDC said in a statement.

The GDC said Hart was serving 20 years for voluntary manslaughter out of Carroll County with a maximum release date of June 2043. According to published reports, Hart was convicted in the fatal shooting of a Villa Rica man at a Memorial Day party in 2013.

Georgia’s prisons are rife with violence and homicides, but prisoners having guns is virtually unheard of. Death certificate records dating back to 2017 show no other case where a prisoner with a firearm killed someone inside a Georgia state prison, the AJC determined.

Sunday’s incident is also the second killing of a prison staff member within a year at Smith. In October, correctional officer Robert Clark, 42, was killed after being assaulted by a prisoner with a homemade weapon.

Smith is one of the most understaffed, violent and dysfunctional facilities in the state’s correctional system, and the reality that a firearm made its way inside the prison takes its problems to a new level.

Early last year, Smith’s then-warden, Brian Adams, was arrested and fired for being part of a massive contraband scheme operating out of the prison. Adams was charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, bribery, making or writing false statements and violating his oath as a public officer. Warrants for Adams’ arrest said he received U.S. currency through a pattern of racketeering activity associated with the contraband operation.

Smith is categorized as a close security prison because most inmates are considered risks for escape, violence or violating rules. Most Georgia prisons have been severely understaffed since the pandemic. That’s particular true at Smith, where about two-thirds of its correctional officer positions were unfilled as of January.


© 2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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