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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Teens In Georgia Prisons


Fighting to Survive Is The Way of Life at Alto


Alto, Ga. - The day begins sometime after 4:30 a.m. with a flash and a bang. Prison guards snap on the bright, overhead lights and the steel cell doors clang open, signaling inmates at Lee Arrendale State Prison that it's time to get out of bed.

Lazing too long can bring a DR, or disciplinary report, and too many DRs can cost an inmate dearly when he tries to transfer to a lower-security prison or gain certain privileges.

For the next 20 hours, until lockdown is called and the lights go out, life is a monotonous pattern of mediocre meals, head counts, inspections, outdoor recreation, hours of TV and, according to some, simple survival. "There was fighting every day. You couldn't stay out of trouble there," says Glenn Sims, 20, who spent nearly two years at Arrendale State Prison, better known as Alto. "If you don't fight, though, you're going to be somebody's punk," meaning another inmate's sex toy.

At any given time, a couple of dozen of the 1,200 inmates at the maximum-security prison are juveniles convicted as adults. By law, they are supposed to be kept away from adult prisoners, but for all the close encounters they have, Sims says, "We might as well have been together."

He remembers the constant fear of being a minor among hundreds of adult convicts, most accused of violent crimes, felons and his need to always be on guard. During mealtimes, when the juveniles would be herded into the cafeteria as adults were finishing up, the older men would talk about which youngsters they hoped to rape. Shower time brought the occasional peeping adult inmate, who would masturbate while watching the minors.

"You've got a lot of people with life sentences and no possibility of parole, and they're never going to see the streets again," Sims says. "Inmates really run that camp, and they're not going to take anything lying down."

Sims considers himself fortunate. After nearly a year without wracking up a DR, he won a transfer to Hancock State Prison in October 2000, a lesser-security facility where inmates can sleep later and where he says fighting is not a prerequisite to staying alive. Still, it doesn't change the fact that he's in prison and will remain there until December 2008, when his 10-year term for armed robbery is up. He's reminded of it every second of the day, from the "horrible" prison food he eats to the views of walls, fences and guard towers that he faces from daylight to dark. On this particular morning, breakfast was sausages, eggs and "some kind of muffins," he says with a wry grin. He spends much of his day keeping his dormitory clean and poring through books by his favorite authors, John Grisham and Dean Koontz.

Each evening he tries to watch the 6 o'clock news on one of the two television sets shared by his dorm-mates. One is used for watching movies, and the other is usually tuned to a sports station.

Like most inmates, Sims, who grew up in Roosevelt on Long Island, says he didn't know about the Georgia law passed in 1994 that required juveniles to be charged as adults for certain crimes. If he had, he says he would not have done what he did. But he admits he had gone wild as a young teen, skipping school to sell drugs and using the money to buy fancy clothes, more drugs and hotel rooms for sex. He admits he was a hothead who got into fights, including with his strict stepfather. He has a tattoo on the inside of his left arm attesting to his involvement with gangs. Etched into his skin by a fellow prisoner, it reads in large Gothic print, "Little BG," for Little Baby Gangster, his nickname on the street.

When the police came calling shortly before Christmas in 1998, he figured the worst he was facing was a charge of violating curfew. By law, though, his participation in the armed robbery of a convenience store required him to be charged as an adult, and his guilty plea brought him a mandatory 10-year term.

"I thought they couldn't do it," he said, arguing, as prisoners often do, that he doesn't deserve this punishment. In his case, though, and in the cases of other juveniles charged as adults, many human rights groups and legal experts agree. Rather than putting juveniles in prison for long periods, Sims says it would make more sense to jail teens until age 21. Under the current system, he argues that problem kids, forced to use aggression to survive in prison, only become worse.

1 comment:

  1. 10years age16 thanks 2 ga.August 17, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    I was at alto for 5 and a half years befor i could get move I was in the old an-x. and new in 96 B-uint alto is or was the ruffest of GA. I had to become what I was locked up with and be willing to kill to get my respest from the other cons. the guards wouldnt even come in the dorms without back up. So for 10 years i was what the state of GA. said i was I had too in order to survive. By the end of my 10 years yes i had to do every day of it not the 36 to 48 months me and my family where told for a plea agrement. I was one of the first juvys in Hall Co. georgia to be tried as an adult for murder felony murder and malice murder. The DA. andy fuller became the top judge shorty after my case. See I pled out to involentary mansalghter. the same day my trile was starting 19 months with no bond. And to think 10 years of my life and over 20000.00 from my parents. No we arent rich worken class. the thing is no matter what i was given my hell is still with me every day and in my dreams. I am 35 now max out my time in 11/10/2001 i was 26 when I came out. cant get a good job many manual only after da background check they start studerring. I am a master welder yea all tipes of welding. But none of it ever really matter still no job. I have come to realize how prison messes with my mind even today. But the worst of it all it was my best friend chad that died on 11/10/91 he was 15. I had just tured 16 the month before. What happend was an accident with a hand gun the only eye wittness was robby 14 it was his dads gun and my stupidty an carelesness caused my bestfriends death. Its took me years to learn how to live with this. Robby 14 was never charged thank god but he was questioned a total of 17 times before trail day the DA. office didnt like his statement hes always said it was an accident. I know Robby knows Chad and God knows. Durring that 10 years of my life I learned how or had to be a violent crimimal and I had to be twice as violent or quicker to snap becouse Im white. By the time I left Alto off to Valdosta S.P. another one of georgias violant prison. In fact I have live at 5 of the 6 close security camps the worst of the worst cons. but the cons were not the problem officer where I have seen 6 inmates beat to death by officers. and this was before cell phones. thats why they are rasising so much hell couse inmate can get word out to the free world look how many officers have been charge this year alone. I was beat twice by officers sat in the hole for 9 months. What the system dose to the youth most people couldnt understand or comprehend and never will unless its one of your on kids. But then it will be to late. At least we train the youth that signs up to go to war. sorry about my grammer or spelling thank the state georgia for that a GED is all they offer me or anybody. Ok enough of my life maybe this might make one freeworld person stop and think for a second. We are all human an make mustakes right. But some of us humans get caught and persecuted for the rest of our lifes for one mistake or laps in judgement. THANKS U.S. JUDICAL SYSTEM the STATE GEORGIA and G.D.O.C. you know where everybody is treated fairly and just. James Palmour EF 313511 I aint scared remember I maxed out sentence is dead but I can still be sean at the lovely GDOC website. yea look just think I was my moms baby too. And we aint getting her stated. PEACE and GOOD LUCK to ALL INSIDE AND OUT.