A Georgia correctional officer pleaded guilty today to violating the civil rights of an inmate.
According to documents filed in connection with the guilty plea, Jamal Scott, 33, an on-duty correctional officer at the Valdosta State Prison (VSP) in Valdosta, struck an inmate with his fist multiple times while the inmate was handcuffed and lying on the ground on Dec. 29, 2018. Specifically, Scott, along with Correctional Officer Brian Ford, Sergeant Patrick Sharpe, and other prison officials, escorted the handcuffed inmate to an outdoor area on the grounds of the prison for the purpose of assaulting the inmate in retaliation for an earlier altercation between the inmate and a female officer. Scott and Ford, carrying out a directive from their supervisor, Sharpe, took the inmate to the ground and struck him multiple times in the body. The inmate was handcuffed and compliant at the time of the assault.
Ford previously pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, 2020, to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, for his role in this incident. Scott and co-defendant Sharpe were indicted in a four-count indictment on Dec. 11, 2020.
“When Scott assaulted this inmate, he violated the inmate’s civil rights and betrayed his oath of office as a correctional officer,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pam S. Karlan of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to protect the civil rights of all individuals, and work to ensure that officers who abuse their power are held accountable.”
“Damaging repercussions are felt across our community and beyond whenever a sworn officer violates the civil rights of a person in their charge,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary for the Middle District of Georgia. “Our office will work tirelessly to protect the civil rights of all people, and we will hold abusive officers accountable for breaking the laws they are sworn to uphold.”
“There is never a reason for a correctional officer to resort to violence that violates an inmate’s constitutional rights,” said Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker of the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI understands that working in a correctional institution is stressful and dangerous work, and that the vast majority of the men and women working in these institutions do their jobs honorably on a daily basis. When an officer violates the rights of inmates in their care, it erodes public trust in these important positions and damages the reputation of the hard-working officers who continue to serve.”
Scott faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled at this time.
This case was investigated by the FBI and was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Katherine G. DeVar and Nicole Raspa of the Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Criminal Chief Michael Solis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.