Organization works to ensure justice for inmates in South Georgia

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 6:24 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - An inmates rights organization is speaking out after a former prison supervisor pleaded guilty to civil rights violations.

The organization says it’s rare that they see this type of accountability from the federal government.

Valdosta State Prison
Valdosta State Prison(WALB)

“There needs to be a zero tolerance policy for abusive behavior by correctional officers towards incarcerated people. There needs to be a way that we don’t see people who have been violent with incarcerated people keeping their jobs and being promoted. So what we need is further accountability,” said Sara Totonchi, the executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

They work to ensure equality, dignity, and justice for people impacted by the criminal legal system in the South.

“I’m so grateful to the Department of Justice for shining a light on these terrible events that involved this officer and the people that he harmed,” said Totonchi.

Valdosta State Prison
Valdosta State Prison(WALB)

Court documents show Patrick Sharpe working as a correctional officer when the first incident happened in September 2018.

The report says he punched a handcuffed inmate in retaliation for a fight between the inmate and a female officer.

An indictment shows in October that same year, he was promoted to Sergeant, where he oversaw other correctional officers.

In December, a second fight happened.

Documents indicate Sharpe told his officers, Jamal Scott and Brian Ford, to hit a handcuffed inmate after a fight between them and a different female officer.

Ford and Scott pleaded guilty previously to federal crimes related to this incident.

“I think one of the reasons this happened is because unfortunately, our society sees people incarcerated as less than a human which is an absolute travesty. Anyone incarcerated is entitled to their humanity, to safety, and dignity. When we do not promote this, we have terrible things like this happening,” said Totonchi.

Sharpe was convicted of four charges.

Sharpe could spend up to 10 years in prison and be forced to pay a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

There’s no word yet on when he’ll be sentenced.

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