Letters sent by Pippa Hall-Jackson, 19, stating that he feared for his life which were sent weeks before he was stabbed to death by another Hays inmate after stepping off the bus at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Ga.
ATLANTA — A week before Pippa Hall-Jackson was stabbed through the heart, he told his aunt he didn't think he was coming out of Hays State Prison.
"People are dieing (sic) like crazy," he wrote in a letter to his aunt, Natasha Weatherspoon. "I want you all to keep in touch because we never know what tomorrow has in store."
The 19-year-old inmate from Atlanta only made it past the prison walls in Trion, Ga., and the three-hour drive to the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Ga., on Feb. 5 before he was killed. Sources say he was stabbed to death in the transfer yard after stepping off the bus with other Hays inmates who jumped him.
Now his family wants to know how the Department of Corrections failed to protect their son and nephew; how he was killed after being in state custody for only two months. They want to know whether officers followed procedure; how an inmate was able to smuggle a sharpened shank from one prison to another.
"What are they really doing to protect the inmates?" asked Yolanda Jackson, Hall-Jackson's adoptive mother. "Something has to be done."
Officers at Hays say that under standard operating procedure every inmate has to be stripped and searched before leaving the prison and then patted down again before boarding the bus to be transferred.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials didn't comment on whether procedure was followed at Hays or the Diagnostic and Classification Prison before Hall-Jackson was killed.
So far the GBI has arrested one inmate, 26-year-old armed robber Devann Anderson, and charged him with murder, agency spokesman John Bankhead said. Records show Anderson was one of the inmates transferred from Hays on Feb. 5.
But investigators haven't released any details on why Hall-Jackson was targeted or if anyone else was involved.
Hall-Jackson, who was moved from the DeKalb County Jail to Hays in December, is the fourth Hays inmate killed in two months. After a rash of violence that included officer stabbings and inmate riots, the Department of Corrections removed Warden Clay Tatum last week and replaced him with one of his supervisors, Field Operations Manager Rick Jacobs.
Audits show locks at Hays State have been broken and easily defeated since at least 2010, but Jacobs, who was Hays warden from 2009 to 2010, said he is bringing the facility back up to standard. At a recent Board of Corrections meeting, state Commissioner Brian Owens said the prison is making some cells more secure for the most violent offenders.
But Hall-Jackson's family wants to know why it took a fourth inmate death before action apparently was taken.
"It shouldn't have to take a total of four murders for people to say: 'What's going on? Something ain't right in this prison,'" said Ken Hall, Hall-Jackson's uncle.
Last year, Hall-Jackson was sentenced to serve 20 years after an armed robbery in Atlanta in which the business owner was shot and killed. One of Hall-Jackson's friends was convicted of murder, but records show Hall-Jackson's murder charge was dropped and he was convicted of aggravated assault.
On Wednesday, Weatherspoon got a letter from Hays. It was the paperwork she had filled out the first week of February to visit her nephew at the prison.
"I didn't get a chance to see him at Hays," she said. "I didn't get to see him."
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...