published Friday, June 7th, 2013

Hays State Prison gets new warden

Hays State Prison is in Trion, Ga.
Hays State Prison is in Trion, Ga.
Photo by Dan Henry.
UPDATED: Life and death at Hays State Prison

Georgia corrections officials shook up the leadership at more than 14 prisons or state facilities this week, reshuffling wardens across the state.

At Hays State Prison there were multiple changes, including a promotion for the top security officer.

Deputy Warden Shay Hatcher, who was responsible for security at the Trion, Ga., prison during one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the prison system, now will be in charge of a prison in West Georgia.

Hatcher will become the new warden of Rutledge State Prison, a 640-bed medium-security facility in Columbus, Ga., on July 1, the Georgia Department of Corrections announced.

"Hatcher has worked his way up the ranks," Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens said in a statement. "His experience will serve him well in his new role."

Several officers who worked under Hatcher blame him for practices that led to increased violence and deaths, such as warning the inmates of upcoming shakedowns for contraband and letting gang leaders run the dorms. Corrections officials haven't commented or allowed Hatcher to comment on the allegations.

Hatcher began working at Hays in 1996. He was fired in 2000 for ordering an inmate to simulate oral sex with a known homosexual prisoner and then lying to an investigator. He was reinstated four months later.

Officials also moved Walker State Prison Warden Scott Crickmar to the top spot at Hays, replacing interim warden Rick Jacobs. Jacobs took over temporarily after a 19-year-old inmate was stabbed stepping off a transfer bus from Hays -- the fourth to die between Dec. 19 and Feb. 5.

The Department of Corrections gave Jacobs more than $2 million to replace cell locks that state audits identified as broken for more than two years. He was also given the funds to harden cells, meaning a floor-to-ceiling remake of several housing units.

After a month in charge, Jacobs said he believes the facility is safe again, citing low numbers of incidents in monthly reports.

Crickmar will take over at Hays on July 1. He has been warden of Walker State Prison in Rock Spring, Ga., for a year and was promoted to the position after two inmates escaped in February 2012.

Former officers who worked under Crickmar -- a Navy veteran with two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree -- said they believe he has the skills to run Hays.

"He's very aggressive and worked a lot of hours. He's very tough on staff," said a former Walker administrator, who asked not to be named.

Former Lee State Prison Warden Bruce Lee will take over at Walker State Prison in Crickmar's place.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

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 ...

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