Wednesday may have been the 4th of July holiday, but it was anything but a relaxing day off for corrections officials as gang violence erupted at Valdosta State Prison, injuring a number of inmates.
Approximately eight to 10 inmates were reportedly transferred to the Emergency Room at South Georgia Medical Center between noon and 2 p.m., suffering from stab wounds and other injuries.
A gang fight is thought to have broken out shortly before noon in a common area, and two guards were reported to have been slightly injured breaking up the melee, which involved an unknown number of prisoners. Homemade knives, or “shanks,” and other weapons were believed used by gang members in the fight. Officers who have direct prisoner contact are not allowed to carry weapons on prison grounds.
Gwendolyn Hogan, media spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Corrections, said Wednesday she could confirm that there was a gang-related incident at VSP.
“At this time, I’ve been told that no staff were injured but several inmates did receive minor injuries.”
Hogan said the incident is under investigation and more information is expected to be released today from the DOC. Valdosta State Warden William Danforth did not return calls Wednesday made to the prison, and a cell phone number he previously provided to The Times is no longer in service.
A phone call to Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine’s cell number was also not returned Wednesday, so The Times was unable to confirm reports that deputies were called to provide backup for the prison.
The sheriff's offices were closed for the holiday, according to an employee answering the main and administrative lines at the LCSO.
The incident on the 4th is the latest in a series of violent altercations over the last three years at Valdosta State Prison.
Gang-related violence and numerous accounts of stabbings have been reported previously in The Times, including an inmate who died as a result of multiple stab wounds in 2011. Area physicians have reported treating around a dozen prisoners in recent years with facial lacerations and severe eye injuries caused by knife-like weapons.
Valdosta State Prison is a close security prison. According to the Department of Corrections website, the prison’s capacity is 870 but is currently housing 1,353 inmates.
Approximately a third of the severely overcrowded facility’s inmates are classified as Mental Health by the DOC.
Reporter Brittany D. McClure contributed to this story.