Valdosta Daily Times

February 23, 2013

Jail workers fired over beating

Sheriff’s office: Employee attacked by inmate

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Two Lowndes County Jail employees were fired following the Valentine’s Day beating of a fellow jail employee by an inmate using the handheld receiver of a payphone, according to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office Friday.

On Feb. 14, a female jail officer was sorting mail in a bay where inmates often have access outside of their cells, Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine said Friday. She performed this task in an area near a payphone. A male inmate approached her, took the pay phone’s receiver off of the hook, and began beating the jail officer while the receiver remained attached to the phone’s body by its cord.

“There was no reason for it,” the sheriff said. “She gave him no provocation. He just started beating her with the phone. When he finished, he held his hands behind his back to cuff him.”

The jail officer was hit on her head, eye and face. She required three staples to close a wound on her head, Prine said.

The inmate has been identified as Roy Smith, who is serving a 60-year prison term for multiple counts of aggravated assault on a family member, and other convictions resulting from the shooting of a Lowndes County woman and her daughter, Prine said.

Based on the jail beating incident, Smith faces a charge of battery on a law-enforcement officer, the sheriff said. Though regularly housed by the state Department of Corrections, Smith was in the Lowndes County Jail for a court hearing.

The injured employee has since returned to work, but Prine said he fired two jail employees for not paying attention on the job.

The sheriff said the jail employee assigned to monitor the bay was on the phone speaking to another jail employee in a separate one of the jail’s monitoring stations.

“Dispatch at 911 is the lifeline for deputies on the road,’ Prine said. “These monitoring stations are the lifeline to officers in the jail.”

Through camera monitors, these jail employees are responsible for keeping an eye on inmates and fellow jail staff. The monitor did not see the beating because he was on the phone, Prine said. Other jail staff within the bay responded, but their response may have come faster had the monitor been paying attention, Prine said. The sheriff also fired the other monitor for speaking on the phone.