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Contempt motion filed against prison that houses juveniles

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After one inmate at Lee Arrendale State Prison was strangled to death and 52 other prison assaults took place in six months, a contempt of court motion was filed to hold the prison and the state Department of Corrections responsible for the violence.

On Sept. 29, lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights and mega-firm King & Spalding filed a federal motion against department Commissioner James McDonald and Arrendale Warden Tony Turpin. The motion alleges that the defendants continue to violate a 1991 class-action consent order, which mandated that the department take steps to reduce violence at Arrendale, located in the north Georgia town of Alto. The prison houses, among other high-security inmates, children between the ages of 13 and 17 convicted of one of Georgia's "seven deadly sins," including murder and armed robbery.

"They've been violating this for years," says King & Spalding attorney Tom Lundin, "and we want them to show us why they shouldn't be held in contempt."

The motion claims that the 52 violent incidents took place after 18-year-old Wayne Boatwright Jr. died in February at the hands of another inmate. The 33-page motion filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta describes numerous inmate-on-inmate rapes, attempted strangulations, stabbings and beatings with shanks and broomsticks. It alleges that Arrendale officials allowed the violence to take place by failing to staff the prison adequately, repair broken cell doors, and segregate the young, vulnerable inmates from older ones who prey upon them.

Lundin says that although his firm and the Southern Center have written numerous letters to the Department of Corrections asking for changes to occur, and though department officials were present at state Sen. Vincent Fort's, D-Atlanta, Aug. 4 legislative hearing on the escalating violence, nothing has been resolved.

Russ Willard, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, says the state received the motion last week and is "working with Corrections to determine what response is appropriate." The state hasn't yet filed a response.

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