Wed, May 31, 2023 12:45 PM
By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — An attorney for two men whose beatings by guards were recorded by security cameras at a county jail in Georgia called Wednesday for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate what he called a systemic pattern of sheriff's officers abusing detainees.
“They are beating people indiscriminately inside this jail,” civil rights attorney Harry Daniels told reporters at a news conference outside the Camden County Sheriff's Office, about 95 miles (152 kilometers) south of Savannah.
Daniels represents Jarrett Hobbs, a 41-year-old Black man booked into the Camden County jail for a traffic violation and drug possession charges on Sept. 3. Security cameras recorded jailers rushing to Hobbs' cell and repeatedly punching him before hurling him against a wall.
On March 24, video from a camera in the jail's lunchroom showed 23-year-old Zyaire Ratliff, a Black man detained for violating his probation and failing to appear in court, being shoved to the floor by a deputy who then crouched over him and landed several punches before being pulled off by another guard.
“It’s a place where they make their own rules and whatever they say goes," said Ratliff, who is also represented by Daniels and appeared with him at the livestreamed news conference. "If you don’t do what they want, this is the type of thing that will happen.”
Three white deputies accused of punching Hobbs were arrested and fired last fall. On May 18, a grand jury indicted them on misdemeanor charges of battery and felony charges of violating their oaths of office. The Black deputy recorded punching Ratliff was also fired and arrested on the same charges.
Daniels and Timothy Bessent, president of the Camden County NAACP, said more needs to be done because those two cases weren't isolated.
“We’re asking again that the Department of Justice come in and look into this department,” Bessent said, adding: “It’s time to hold someone accountable.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman, Aryele Bradford, said the department had no comment.
Capt. Larry Bruce, a spokesman for Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor, said all jail employees have recently undergone additional training in deescalation techniques. He blamed the violence against Hobbs and Ratliff on younger, inexperienced jail workers.
“The sheriff has always been open for any government agency to come in and inspect or investigate,” Bruce said. “That includes any federal agency or state agency.”
Daniels and Bessent also cited a lawsuit filed last year in federal court by Adam Drummond, who says Camden County jailers violated his civil rights when they beat him bloody during a strip search in January 2021. Drummond, who is white, was being booked on a drunken driving charge.
A judge dismissed Drummond's claims against the sheriff and jail administrator, but ruled his claims against the jailers who strip-searched him have sufficient legal standing to move forward.
Brian Flacher, who was jailed in Camden County in July 2021 on a charge of aggravated stalking, said at the news conference that he was also beaten in the jail shower after refusing to wash his hair. Bruce said the sheriff's office determined that Flacher, who is white, was the aggressor.