Emergency motion filed for Arrendale prisoners

When Matthew Thomas, an inmate at Lee Arrendale State Prison in North Georgia, was brutally beaten and raped two times in two weeks last month, attorneys trying to protect him and other inmates at the prison were fed up.

"This was the last straw," says Sarah Geraghty, an attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights. "We've received numerous phone calls and letters from inmates who are being raped and assaulted and it's got to stop."

Last Friday, the Southern Center for Human Rights and mega-firm King & Spalding filed an emergency motion, asking a federal judge to keep the prison from taking new prisoners, to order that all broken cell doors and locks be repaired within 14 days, and to ensure that no juvenile prisoners be transferred to the adult area of the prison.

Arrendale, located in the North Georgia town of Alto, houses high-security inmates and children between the ages of 13 and 17 convicted of one of Georgia's "seven deadly sins," including murder and armed robbery. The prison has come under frequent attack for allegedly failing to protect its inmates, particularly its young and vulnerable ones, especially after an 18-year-old inmate was strangled to death in February.

The state attorney general's office, which is representing the Department of Corrections, claims some of the allegations — including the one concerning Thomas — are false. In its faxed response to the emergency motion sent Monday, the office noted that Thomas, who is gay, had a consensual relationship with his alleged rapist. Geraghty acknowledges there was a relationship, but says it ended prior to the rapes.

Russ Willard, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said the state filed a 100-page response Monday morning in court denying the allegations. "The state is confident in its arguments," he said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Vining was scheduled to decide on the motion Tuesday afternoon, after CL went to press.

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