Since the beginning of 2019, three people have died in Georgia prisons, according to the Department of Corrections.
The most recent inmate death happened on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at Baldwin State Prison in Hardwick. Corrections officers found inmate David Payne unresponsive in his cell and dead of an apparent suicide. Payne was serving an 18-year sentence in Stephens County for aggravated assault, according to the state of Georgia. He had been incarcerated since 2012.
Another prisoner died by suicide on Feb. 4, according to the DOC. Inmate Raymond Nelson, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011 for failing to register as a sex offender, was found unresponsive in his cell at Calhoun State Prison in Monroe, Georgia.
On Jan. 17, an inmate at Hays State Prison in Trion was killed in a suspected homicide. Department of Corrections officials report that inmate Marion Luke was assaulted by another inmate and was awaiting medic services at the prison before he died. Luke had been sentenced to eight years in 2014 for aggravated assault.
FRACTURED REPORTING PROCESS
In 2018, an 11Alive investigation uncovered Georgia’s top law enforcement agency has no idea how often people die in county jails across the state. State law doesn’t require it, the reporting process is fractured and local counties often investigate themselves when someone is found dead behind bars.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, at least 358 inmates have died in Georgia county jails since 2007. Eighty-four of those were suicides. The real figure is likely hundreds more.
GBI’s numbers only reflect deaths when local counties asked the state agency to investigate. Sheriff departments are not required to report jail fatalities to the state. When GBI is not notified, local agencies investigate their own actions.
Larger policing agencies have internal affairs divisions which review the conduct of their peers, including in-custody jail deaths. Some of those departments include Atlanta Police, Fulton County Sheriff, DeKalb County Sheriff, Cobb County Sheriff and Gwinnett County Sheriff. Those agencies can still request the GBI to investigate, but GBI spokesperson Behan Rich says mostly smaller agencies request the state agency’s assistance.
“They would conduct their own investigation. Normally, it would be determined by the circumstances of the case,” said Rich.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.