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Mother of prisoner on unrest at Georgia prison: ‘It was disturbing. It was hurtful'

WARE COUNTY, Fla. – In the days following a violent disturbance at the Ware State Prison, News4Jax is hearing from family members of inmates at the facility.

Two staff members and three inmates were injured, but are expected to recover.

Videos taken by inmates on cellphones that had been taken as contraband have gone viral, showing other inmates covered in blood and a corrections officer in handcuffs.

Valecia Smith said her son is an inmate at the prison and that the videos taken during Saturday’s unrest are hard to watch.

“It was disturbing. It was hurtful,” Smith said. “I want to make sure that my child don’t die behind those walls.”

On Wednesday, News4Jax received a letter from an inmate, who claimed lack of staff and poor living conditions contributed to the incident at the facility. It reads in part:

“Did anyone stop and think about the reason the riot incident happened on August 1, 2020 at Ware State Prison? This prison is understaffed. It may be eight officers to run this 1,500 man camp at night.”

The writer adds, “Because of this shortage of staff, administration looks for any reason to lock us in these rooms. We had been locked in these cells for two weeks prior to this incident.”

A woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said her fiancé is a prisoner at the facility. She said inmates are only allowed one shower a week and that housing is overcrowded.

“They have put inmates in a room that is designated for only two inmates. It has been at least four to five inmates in one room,” the woman said.

On Monday, News4Jax spoke with a corrections officer who was on-duty Saturday night, who said the disturbance wouldn’t have happened if they had the proper equipment and staffing.

RELATED: Officer who witnessed unrest at Georgia prison: ‘I was worried for my safety’

Without being able to communicate with her son because of the prison lockdown, Smith is hoping the state will create changes to make sure an incident like this doesn’t happen again.

The Georgia Department of Corrections has reported two inmate deaths at Ware State Prison due to COVID-19.


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