Chaos at Smith State Prison Continues to Cost Tattnall Taxpayers

While the notorious Georgia State Prison and its inmates, came with a host of problems before the facility shuttered for good, Smith State Prison just down the road in Glennville, GA, has continued to operate with considerably less scrutiny despite its overwhelmingly obvious violence and out of control operations. 

Georgia State Prison in Reidsville ‘closed’ for general operations in early 2022, though it is routinely used as a transfer hub for inmates coming and going from other jurisdictions. The 100-year-old prison once home to death row and the electric chair shuttered as the Georgia Department of Corrections announced it was contemplating building an even larger maximum security site in Tattnall County – to the tune of several hundred million dollars – which would return the number of prisons in the small, rural county to three. 

But with everything taking place at the existing facilities in Tattnall County, can taxpayers really afford it? An examination of Smith State Prison in just the last three years says ‘no.’

Warden Brian Adams has served as the warden at Smith SP since October 2019. His lateral move to the facility followed a series of violent riots at the correctional institution, or ‘disturbances’ as they are referred to by the Department of Corrections, which resulted in a handful of deaths and several helicopter life flights out of the facility. His presence at the facility was supposed to bring a semblance of peace and order, but public records indicate his tenure has been full of everything but.  

Violence in Prisons Overflows into Tattnall County Courts

Even before the closing of GSP, Smith State Prison in Glennville dominated the court dockets in Tattnall County Superior Court. Of the inmate prison cases that resulted in additional criminal charges in Tattnall County from Georgia State Prison, Rogers State Prison, and Smith State Prison over the last three years, a whopping 70.3% of them originated from Smith State Prison. 

According to according to court records, charges against inmates since the arrival of Warden Adams include:

  • Multiple murders;
  • Stabbings which have, on multiple occasions resulted in permanent disfigurement and/or limited mobility;
  • Aggravated Sexual Battery on another inmate which includes placing three bars of soap in an orfice;
  • Assaults on correctional officers, including throwing of liquids on them, strikes to the face, placement of an officer in a chokehold, and assaults with handcuffs;
  • Possession of 79 bags of methamphetamine for distribution to other inmates;
  • Possession of marijuana for distribution to other inmates; and 
  • Damage to facility property, including throwing items at glass windows, breaking sprinkler heads and water fountains, and other items

NOTE: The chart below is not the NUMBER of cases, but the number of each charge pending as some defendants may have more than one offense. (i.e – John Smith charged with Aggravated Assault, Contraband, and Gang Activity)

Charges against inmates in GDC facilities within Tattnall County
(*does not included adjudicated cases – pending cases only)
Botched Murder for Hire Scheme Planned from Inside Smith State Prison

Also on Warden Adams’ watch in 2021 was a botched murder for hire plot which was orchestrated from his facility in an attempt to take out a GDC corrections officer. The plot to ‘eliminate’ a contraband-aggressive C.O. resulted in a hit on the wrong house and claimed the life of 88-year-old Bobby Kicklighter – the next door neighbor of the intended target. The GBI’s investigation into Kicklighter’s murder revealed another connected case in Jesup, where husband and father Jerry Lee Davis was murdered in his own home, allegedly by the same crowd. 

The investigation, which has now spanned almost two years, has uncovered a multi-million dollar contraband ring led by inmates and operating from behind the walls of Smith State Prison. The investigation so far has revealed the inmates had help from former corrections officers, current corrections officers, and citizens on the outside. 

Though, according to court testimony from GBI agents investigating the criminal enterprise, there is photographic and video evidence of inmates over several months time displaying designer clothing, cell phones, gold and diamond jewelry, drugs, and cash,– all of which are prohibited contraband items –  the operations of Smith SP have yet to be scrutinized, overhauled, or even questioned. 

Deterioration of the Facility, Deferred Maintenance & Failed Health Inspections

While Warden Adams approved the purchase of video game consoles and flat screen televisions as rewards for inmates, the Smith SP facility itself is seemingly overrun with pests, rodents, and filthy mold and mildew.

This is important to note, considering that, among the reasons listed for the closure of Georgia State Prison, deferred maintenance which would cost more to repair than rebuild topped the charts. But GDC seems to have learned little from GSP, as conditions at Smith State Prison have deteriorated drastically since Adams took the helm in October 2019. 

Dating back to 2017, Smith State Prison consistently hovered in the ‘A’ score territory. Within 30 days of Adams taking over, the score dropped below an ‘A,’ and has declined in perpetuity. In May of this year, the facility failed its health inspection. DPH notified the facility that it would return in three days for reinspection, prompting the facility to remedy some of the issues, but many of the more severe issues remain.

The May 2022 failed health inspection reported eight violations, six of which were ‘repeat’ violations, according to DPH.

Among the repeat violations:

  • Need to repair flooring in bakery, pitted, broken wall by bakery, hallway entrance to dish machine room, poor condition, mildew buildup, 
  • Observed heavy roden activity

Additionally, food surfaces were not sanitized, handwashing facilities were not supplied and/or accessible, plumbing issues were cited, and physical facilities were not maintained and clean. 

When DPH returned three days later for a re-inspection, the facility still lacked soap for handwashing, foods were not covered and stored at the correct temperatures, a water supply that could not be shut off was noted within the kitchen area, and while fly and roach activity had declined, ‘heavy rodent activity’ was still present. 

The issue is seemingly one that will not be addressed, however. According to previous DPH reports:

  • “Observed rodent droppings in rooms #B147 and B186A on bags, boxes…Repeat violation.” (11/29/21)
  • “Dry storage has a severe rodent infestation, also found mice droppings and bag damage in caged storage areas…Exterminator needs to be brought in to evaluate and treat as necessary. Repeat Violation.” (12/7/2020) 
  • “Need to increase fly control in kitchen, numerous flies, need to increase rodent control in second dry storage room, found droppings on bags and boxes. Have a minor ant problem at the bakery room. Repeat violation.” (06/15/20)

You can read all of the Smith State Prison public health inspection reports from the Georgia Department of Health here

Perplexing Silence from Board of Corrections Member Based in Glennville

With Tattnall County’s unique position as the only county in the state to have three prisons within its borders, presumably the county would reap some benefit from also having a Board of Corrections member for the 12th Congressional District as a resident of Tattnall County. But just the opposite is true. 

Wayne Dasher of Glennville has served as a member of the Board of Corrections since 2004. The 71-year-old lacks any background in corrections, having spent his working life in banking. Dasher has been silent on the goings on inside Smith State Prison, or any of the Tattnall County prisons generally, and has failed to bring the matters up at any of the Board of Corrections meetings over the last 22-months since the murder of Bobby Kicklighter. 

Dasher, however, has been a vocal advocate for the reduced water rates for GDC facilities provided at the expense of City of Glennville taxpayers. As such, for decades, the city of Glennville has provided water to Smith State Prison at a subsidized rate that is only made whole through taxation on city residents. 

You can read more about how the operations of three state prisons in Tattnall County have negatively impacted the Tattnall County community here

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.'

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  1. It’s more to the prison and lot of people do not realize and that’s the biggest mistake warden Adams haves a hate for colored people and calls his females officers BABY. He lets the inmates use cellphone, have all types of jewelry, and most of all they drugs

  2. This article is fallacious and a straight attack on Warden Brian Adams with false narrative. First, the violence in Smith state prison has decreased since Mr. Adams to over the facility. 10 years ago was hell on earth. That’s a fact. Second, the lack of staff is not Adams fault. The game console were bought because of the pandemic because inmates were not allowed to come out the dorms for yard call which federal law mandates outdoor activities. The consoles prevented federal lawsuits from inmates and a decrease of violence. After the pandemic and many outbreaks the consoles are still being used. Knuckle-headed inmates break t.v’s in rare occasions so others have to be bought. The “botched murder” will be dealt with at the fullest extent of the law. Blaming a Warden for it is the most absurd and unprofessional journalistic writing. You must be a democrat with no fact-checking skills. According to my father, he’s seen Warden Adams Chase inmates and take contraband phones and inmates fear him when he walks into dorms for inspection. And the first comment made on this article with name “Haley Dean” is a joke. Whoever wrote that is a jealous S.O.B. Warden Adams has decreased the violence in Smith and I know that for a fact. Get you facts straight. The prison is more than 20 years old, wear and tear is inevitable.

    • “Ashley,”

      First, thanks for reading.
      Second, ‘fallacious’ means something is based on a mistaken belief. The data in this article is from courthouse records. If you believe that the records showing that 70%+ of court cases in Tattnall County Superior Court originate from Smith State Prison…are, in fact, incorrect, I would suggest you contact that Georgia Department of Corrections CID because they’re the ones who have filed the charges against the inmates in every single case. I believe they work closely with the wardens at the prisons, too.

      You’re correct about it being an attack. It is one and that was the intention of the article. I’m glad you were able to pick up on it.

      10 years ago is irrelevant. That is also a fact. We’re talking about now.

      I appreciate you confirming that the game consoles were purchased. That was something that was previously not confirmed by GDC and their records division, for obvious reasons, and the only thing I had to go off of was pictures from contraband phones. So, again, I appreciate you confirming they were purchased.

      Your outrage over the blaming of the warden for the botched-murder for hire is rooted completely in emotion and that’s quite sad. You see, if the prison was secure, if inmates didn’t have cell phones, cash apps, cash, drugs, and access to the outside world, that murder for hire wouldn’t have happened. It would have been impossible. But…it was very possible and it was quite easy for them. Additionally, no changes have been made to Smith SP since the murder for hire to prevent other ones.

      It’s unfortunate you see no issue or culpability here, but I reckon that’s due to your closeness to the warden.

      The fact that you feel the need to attack me personally, while also assuming my political affiliation, shows you really lack substance with your arguments (which, again, rely considerably on emotion and not facts and data). It would behoove you and your cause to do better in the future. Facts will always prevail.

      Also, if you want to attack other commenters on the site about being a joke, I would recommend using your real name, your full name, and a real email address to comment. 🙂

      Take care and thanks again for the comment.

      • 10 years ago officers were being brought to the Sally ports in this prison in peices part by part and you do not think that is an extreme and relevant change with the department being so extremely short on staff for the officers to be going home? Are you as a journalist in a relationship with one of the offenders housed there? Seems like it. You can put together any type of numbers you wish but if it is the number of criminals being convicted in court then it means the offenders committing crimes are not getting away with criminal activities where at other facilities the issues may or may not be being pushed out of the way to make other warden’s look good it was a lie that warden Adams calls his female employees baby ! You are just using this article to assist offenders . Let me make this more clear YOU are using this article to assist murders, rapists, pedophiles, violent people to gain power within their communities to commit more crimes YOU. seem to be the problem Ma’am not the warden who is a Christian man who you made false sexual harrassment allegations in a news article against. YOU who are accusing a man who is standing up for his employees in a profession where officers get killed so often. YOU are the issue when YOU represent falsely a criminal empire in the attempt to encourage criminal activity behind bars and that is exactly what you are doing Ma’am YOU ARE THE PROBLEM IN TODAYS SOCIETY . DO BETTER THEN ENCOURAGING AND ASSISTING CRIMINALS WITH YOUR “JOURNALISM”

        • Thanks for your feedback, it was sent to the ‘suggestion box.’

          To clear up of inaccurate claims you made in your comment:

          1. The first sentence is hard to dissect since it’s so long and doesn’t make a ton of sense. If you want to add to it or break it up, that may help you get your point across.

          2. I am not in a relationship with anyone behind bars, anyone who works there, or anyone who has ever been behind bars. If attempting to insult me personally simply because you don’t like an article brings you joy, by all means, carry on. But it does nothing to help anyone see your point of view.

          3. The numbers cited in the article are from GDC and from the state health department.

          4. I never wrote that Warden Adams called anyone ‘baby.’ There are no claims of sexual harassment made by me in this article. I’m concerned about your reading comprehension if you gathered that from anything about violence in prisons, building maintenance, or health scores.

          5. If you use punctuation, I think your thoughts may be clearer.

          6. You seem very triggered by the statistics published. I appreciate the time and validity you gave the article by reading it and commenting, but you shouldn’t let things on the internet have such an effect on you. I don’t think it’s healthy.

          Take care and Happy New Year!

  3. The report on the Warden was wrong. He was sent to fail at an all ready failing facility. Things discussed would have been much much worse had he not been here. The guy has No assistants from the GDC headquarters or anyone above him. He is in a sea alone with no power to change. He’s no puppet! He works his ass of with what he is given and that’s NOTHING. The higher ups need to spend the rest of there lives in prison for the amount of corruption they represent.the parole board need to be abolished. Fired and taken to jail as well. Smith state prison is a dilapidated wearhouse with no staff and absolutely no maintenance. That’s a different story but again limited by lack of brain cells and massive stupidity…… Georgia dose not give a rats ass if we die. Just means more room to fill…… Your dog eats better. Warden Adams is doing his best. And the system is doing nothing.

  4. To me these statistics show that Warden Adams is doing a better job at lowering the crime rates in the prisons, that has obviously become way out of control and have begun spilling into our streets and towns. Look at the news on Television people. Georgia has become so over run with gangs, drugs and violence even outside our prisons and all the other wardens seem to be passing the buck on taking much care of helping the situation. The offenders have taken these things outside the facility to make the Georgia department of corrections look bad because they are upset when they do not get their way like little children. I do believe offenders should not be abused and should have access to healthy environments but at the end of the day when all of America is short staffed for corrections officers, and the offenders destroy what is luxury to them. there is only so much we can help them with. This is more of an instance where tough love is necessary not coddling and abuse shouldn’t be tolerated and it shows in these statistics that at Smith state prison warden Adams holds his officers to higher standards. If investigators looked this hard at the other prisons they would probably find there numbers are low because things are not reported appropriately and there is probably alot more going on in the other prisons and we need to renovate all the prisons but we also need to look for the root sources children’s services in all states are failing children and they are growing up more violent from being taken from homes without cause just on probability. These offenders need a system that will create a stable environment away from the crimes they used to commit so when released we do not have such a high turnover rate. Kudos to the states of Texas and wyoming for for going in this direction by creating jobs for former offenders that help them become successful outside the prison gates gci can be good but not everyone wants to do these things Texas offers offenders jobs in state positions such as roads and drainage work. Wyoming has set up after prison care systems that to say the least are successful and exuberant. Stop being the coddling citizen. hold offenders accountable, teach them change stop suppressing the officers who work in these places and start suppressing the systems in place that created these issues.

  5. I’m so over SMITH STATE PRISON had a visit get there mind you drove 4 1/2 hrs away just to see a signs all over the door and windows stating visitation is canceled. I’ve asked to speck to the warden was told he was to busy to come down so they sent security warden down and he told at least 20 visitors that was standing out there that it’s nothing they can do. We never received any emails stating that they canceled. They don’t report anything to the state this is why we don’t get emails that’s to cover Brian Adams azz and his team.

  6. Jessica, Normally I follow your posts with great interest and enthusiasm, but your recent post against Warden Brian Adams and the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) seems unjust and lacks the proper perspective. I understand your deep commitment to doing what you believe is right, but please know that Warden Adams and Commissioner Ward are NO LESS COMMITTED TO DOING WHAT IS RIGHT.

    My son has served many years of confinement in the GDC. I have interacted with the GDC for almost two decades, and all of those encounters have not been pleasant.

    The GDC does have some challenging issues to address, but they are actively working to address these issues. Since Warden Adams arrival to Smith SP, the frequency and scale of violence has steadily decreased. This did not happen overnight, of course, but he has improved the safety and security of the facility. Warden Adams is inside the facility every day on the main compound – before the sun rises, visibly and diligently running the prison. There are many days he doesn’t leave until the sun begins to set to ensure the facility is safe and secure. I’m sure you will cite the number of homicides and aggravated assaults as evidence of his unfitness for command. But Historical Prospective is important here.

    The Southern Center for Human Rights released a report almost a decade ago on the level of violence inside the GDC. Using data from 2009 – well before Warden Adams arrival – the report cited Smith State Prison as THE 5th MOST VIOLENT PRISON IN THE STATE, this report was based on the number of homicides in a five year period. Violence at
    Smith SP is nothing new. It houses some of the worst offenders in the state, and is classified as a Level V -Close Security Prison for good reason. Warden Adams and his staff are doing their level best to ensure the safety and security of the facility.

    Furthermore, you mentioned the purchase of the gaming consoles and TV’s for the offenders. These incentives are purchased at no cost to the taxpayers of Georgia. All incentives for the inmates are purchased through the Inmate Benefit Fund, which is funded through the Inmate Account System. Like most people, inmates respond positively when properly incentivized.

    While Warden Adams cannot appropriately defend himself or his record against your posts, due to the strict GDC Communication Policy, perhaps he can arrange an onsite visit for you to help enhance your perspective on the depth and complexity of the problems at Smith and his active efforts to address them.

    Please keep up the good work, but in that pursuit, please keep to the facts and maintain that high-level of Journalistic Impartiality we have come to appreciate and admire of you.

  7. I read nothing but facts in this article… you wouldn’t believe all the things that aren’t documented … insane glad to no longer work there.

  8. As a former inmate at smith state prison, I have witnessed the atrocities that are being spoken of. They literally have no officers watching the compound. People will get stabbed and bleed out waiting for a officer to walk by the building and give call for medical. Sometimes this won’t happen and they will bleed out when they could have been saved. The warden refuses to follow protocol. He is said to be receiving profits from some of the operations going on inside the prison with inmates. I personally would like to see the health and welfare of the inmates improved. They are supposed to be rehabilitated. Not locked up and left for dead.

  9. Close that place down is terrible the inmates suffer some of the guards also suffering Smith State prison needs to be closed down and reading all the the things that’s wrong with it people are just they just want money it needs to be shut down now God bless you and everything that’s done in this world God knows what’s going on he will fix it in the long run so get on board and try to treat people the way you would want to be treated in Jesus holy name amen

  10. People like this warden is one of the reasons our prison’s are so dangerous now. They put greed over human life. They care nothing about the people that are suffering everyday from the violence in these prison’s. They let the gang members run the prison’s and let the inmates live in filth,food not fit for animals. Non affiliated inmates have it the worst. They live in fear everyday fighting to live to make it home to their families. Governor Kemp needs to send in the national guard to every prison in Georgia and take back control from gang members and corrupt GDC staff. People defending this warden obviously has never been in prison or had a loved one in prison. This warden needs to end up in the same prison maybe his inmates he made so much money from will protect him.

  11. I also was an inmate there when Adams came on after the summer of violent deaths. I have personally been chased down by Adams because i had a cell phone. Inmates would try to hide everything when Adams came to a dorm he would get out of a dorm in 10 mins than the tac squad would find when they searched. Adams also made that place safer but its really hard to call that place safe at all.

  12. Conditions the reporter mentioned are accurate here, and in most GDC facilities. We need to remove the law that makes what happens inside the prison system, a state secret.
    I was in prison for 2.5 years for what most would call a white collar crime. I was housed at Long State, and worked outside the fence at Smith. This was from 2018-2019 that I was there. I saw all the food in 2019 that came from the inmate store, that was chewed into by rats, i heard the stories from the kitchen, and saw all the shanks, the cell phones and the documents that should have been shredded, but were not. That discussed the shake downs, what was found and more. Wayne Dasher wines and dines the state elite each year, and used the prison fire team as slaves, setting up the party, serving beer, serving food and more. He gets the inmates to work on his personal projects up at the firehouse, gets the welders to things for him. Its a mess, but also a “state secret”

  13. My brother has been in the GDC for 25 years. He’s been at 19 prisons during that time – mostly close security. According to him, there are a couple of inter-related problems: corruption and incompetence lead the way. There have always been corrupt prison staff, but this became endemic because of three factors: [1] outlawing tobacco inside the prisons (prvided a “legal” way for inmates to easily corrupt staff); [2] discontinuing the partnership between the technical colleges and the GDC’s various “trades” operations (provided a “legal” way for staff to use “free” inmate labor for personal projects); [3] the changed demographic of corrections officers (replaced the mostly racially balanced – primarily male staffs with disproportionately African American female staffs). The corruption issue mostly remained invisible to the public until covid “broke” the system. The grotesque staffing shortages have caused all the ill effects of the corruption [which ranges from petty to extreme] to be much more visible. In the realm of incompetence, the reality is that the smallest business could not stay in operation with 95% of the GDC’s “managers” running the show. GDC “managers” don’t have a clue how to manage either personnel or facilities. They promote folks based upon factors other than competence [frequently due to connections or knowlege of the supervisor’s corruption, but not infrequently due to sexual relationships] — and they coninue to promote folks in spite of not having sufficient bodies to fill the front line postions. The result is unmanned posts in the housing units, with overmanned supervisory & administrative staffs. There are many [probably most] prisons in the GDC where there are more sargeants, lieutenants, captains, unit managers, deputy wardens & wardens on duty during a shift than there are corrections officers. And, yeah, that leads directly to out of control violence, because it’s corrections officers who have the job of controlling access to housing unit doors, yards & walkways. Thanks in large part to the demographic changes within the GDC staff, so-called managers are loathe to hold subordinates accountable, lest someone question the demographics themselves. This makes it very easy for young gang members to compromise young [especially female] staff members who come from similar backgrounds. The same lack of managerial competency sees the GDC assigning offenders to prisons based on such things as maintaining a “preferred” racial balance, rather than segregating the known gang members from the rest of the population. Think about this – regardess of what one thinks of child molesters – how much sense does it make to house them with gang-related offenders who have committed violent crimes? How much sense does it make to spread all the known drug traffickers and sellers across every prison and housing unit? Reckon maybe that by doing these two things, we can guarantee more mindless violence and more widespread drug trafficking? Common sense says the GDC should place all the known gang members who have committed violent crimes together in the most secure prisons with the correctional staff needed. [If a prison needs to be short-staffed, it should be a prison filled with child molesters… who pose very few security risks INSIDE prison]. Therre are all sorts of similar classification and assignment realities that the GDC simply does not understand [or act upon]. The #1 reality is that cellphones are not the problem – it’s cellphones in the hands of the gangs and drug traffickers. Assign those offenders to the same prisons and they’ll have no one to prey upon except each other, and it will be a lot easier to control the influx of cellphones and drugs, because they’ll mostly be limited to those prisons. But to do these things requires honesty at all levels, and real managerial expertise. Beyond that, it requires recognizing that the current demographic make-up of most GDC prison staffs is unacceptable. No one would argue that predominently white male staffs would be acceptable, so why on earth would anyone not grasp that predominently African American [largely female] staffs aren’t just as unacceptable? In the final analysis, there are some very good men and women employed by the GDC, but the organizational structure and culture are not up to the task required — and that falls on the Governor and State Legislature.

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