MACON, Ga. — Wednesday marked one year since a 30-year-old Bibb County jailer was stabbed in the neck and killed in the line of duty.
The GBI says Deputy Christopher Knight and four or five other jailers were moving inmate Albert Booze from a cell block to a suicide watch cell when Booze grabbed a knife from Knight’s hip and attacked him. His death shed light on conditions in the jail.
13WMAZ reporter Ashlyn Webb was escorted behind the barbed wire by eight deputies to see what’s changed in the jail since April 2021.
- Locks not working.
- Inmates getting out of their cells.
- Unbearable working conditions.
Those are a few things she heard from current and former jailers in the days after Knight’s death. Maj. Eric Woodford called Knight’s death ‘eye-opening’ for the sheriff’s office.
It prompted major changes throughout the jail, from how it functions day-to-day to the very bones of the building.
Our visit to the jail started with a cell block that’s now being gutted.
“We’re adding metal plates at the bottom so the doors are secure where objects cannot be put inside the locks,” said Woodford.
It’s part of a $3 million renovation project that Macon-Bibb Mayor Lester Miller announced six days after Knight’s death.
Sheriff David Davis told WMAZ then that 30-40% of the cell doors just didn’t lock – about 300 cells.
“Inmates had gotten to where they were able to figure out how to maneuver and compromise the doors,” said Woodford.
In a renovated block are brighter lights, fresh paint, and locks that actually lock.
“It gives them a new vibe about coming to work and it changes the mindset of the inmate now that the environment they’re in is better than that dark, gloomy look,” said Woodford.
Woodford says they’ve learned from what happened a year ago. They’re more strictly enforcing rules against anyone bringing weapons into the jail, including officers. Inmate Albert Booze allegedly used Deputy Knight’s personal knife to fatally stab him.
“Knives, edged weapons, or firearms… they’re not allowed,” said Woodford.
They’re also requiring jailers to carry clear bags, and the sheriff’s office called in the CERT (Correctional Emergency Response Team) to train jailers on how to get inmates in and out of cells properly as well as move them from block to block.
Woodford says the team worked with the sheriff’s office on unity among the jailers. Showing strength in numbers was something tested in the days after Knight’s death.
“Unfortunately, I would have to tell you it was overbearing on some of them,” said Woodford. “We’ve lost a couple because of the situation; however, you are starting to see our deputies now – because of the work the sheriff has allowed us to do – you’re starting to see that unity come back. They’re starting to feel safer. The conditions are changing, because now we know when the doors are locked.”
As for what’s happened to the inmate accused of stabbing and killing Deputy Knight?
In the last year, Albert Booze has been indicted and is now awaiting trial. He faces seven different charges in the case involving Knight’s death, including: malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, and for allegedly being a member of the Crips gang.
Shortly after the stabbing, he was transferred from the Bibb jail to the Jones County jail. Four months later, Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece told Bibb that Booze needed a ‘change of scenery.’
Chief Deputy Earl Humphrey says Booze was apprehensive and could only be held in a single cell away from general population. Then, Booze was transferred to the Monroe County jail where he still is today.
Within the last year, Booze has reportedly attacked a total of six deputies. An extra charge is tacked onto his growing list of offenses each time.
District Attorney Anita Howard says a trial date for Booze has not been set yet.