WARE COUNTY, Ga. – Talking with News4Jax on a condition of anonymity, two corrections officers are speaking out after three inmates and two staff members were injured during unrest at the Ware State Prison in Waycross.
A golf cart was set on fire and windows were smashed during the melee at Ware State Prison in Waycross, Georgia, and officers had to deploy “non-lethal ammunition” to bring the scene under control, the department said in a statement Sunday.
The statement says there was “no major damage to the facility” reported and that none of the injuries were life-threatening.
The first corrections officer said they watched as the chaos broke out at about 10:45 p.m. Saturday.
“They were destroying a lot of property, setting things on fire,” the corrections officer said. “They were able to gain control because they were able to take a sergeant hostage. They were able to take his keys, which allowed them to get through different gates and things like that.”
The officer says inmates also took radios from officers in the facility. Witnesses said inmates used contraband cell phones to record injured inmates covered in blood inside a dorm.
“I was worried for my safety and just trying to get out and get back to my family,” the corrections officer said.
According to the corrections officer, low staffing is a reason reason inmates were able to take control. The officer says roughly 13 officers were supervising the more than 1,500 inmates Saturday night.
“On a good day, there’s usually one officer per building, but as of lately due to the shortness of staff, there’s many times where one officer was working two buildings sometimes maybe three buildings by themselves,” the officer said.
Another corrections officer, who wasn’t there Saturday night, has resigned following the disturbance.
“I planned on making it a career, but after all this its not an option,” the second corrections officer said. “We barely have working radios, we barely are supplied cuffs, we do not have any spray, which is the pepper spray that we’re certified with, we don’t get that. They took batons away from us so we pretty much have no way to protect ourselves.”
Both corrections officers hope this will send a message to the state to implement better policies to ensure safety within the prison.
A request for comment from the Georgia Department of Corrections on staffing at the prison was not immediately returned Monday evening. A spokesperson said News4Jax’s questions were being reviewed.