UPDATE | 2 Officers resign after beaten inmate investigation

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UPDATE:
Monday, April 6, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- We're now learning Cortez Berry, the inmate seen beaten in an image that went viral last month has been transferred for a second time.

Berry is now in the Macon State Prison, Georgia Department of Corrections said.

Following the News 12 investigation into the beating, the Georgia Department of Corrections has said the 2 supervising officers have resigned.

The Department transferred the other two inmates involved to other facilities, officials said.



News 12 at 6 o' clock/ April 2, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) --The story of an inmate beat down is getting national attention, and the family of the inmate is getting help from civil rights leader, Rev. Al Sharpton.

News outlets from the East to the West coast have been contacting Dee Dee Harris. That's because, in less than a week's time, a photo of her son, beaten and belittled behind bars has gone viral.

"I hope it will create a change because there needs to be a change," Harris said.

Wednesday night more than 100 people gathered at the Augusta Courthouse to rally for justice for her son, Cortez Berry. While that was happening, Dee Dee was in Atlanta meeting with Al Sharpton's foundation, the National Action Network, to push justice forward in a different way.

"They found me a lawyer. The lawyer came over and we sat down and talked to him. He's getting started immediately on the case," she said.

The Reverend Al Sharpton himself is expected to be in Augusta Sunday, hosting a vigil in her son's honor.

Meanwhile, News 12 has learned Cortez Berry has been transferred out of Al Burruss Correctional Facility, a medium security boot camp style prison to a prison in Glennville with a history of violence and inmate murders.

"I feel he's being punished because he goes from a mid-level present to a high-security prison. That's not right," Harris said.

State senators have also reached out to Berry's father following News 12's Investigation.

"They said they were going to call to the prison to make sure he was safe. They did get a response. He is safe. He is in one cell by himself. He'll go out one hour a day, and he'll be in a cell 23 hours a day," she said.

Now, Dee Dee is hoping her son's misfortune will spark real change in the department of corrections and shed light on a system that is failing.

"I understand he does have to be punished for what he did, but he shouldn't be punished like this."



Thursday, April 2, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW-TV) --- The man seen in a picture holding a noose or leash around the neck of 18-year-old Cortez Berry has been identified, Sources confirm to News 12.

17-year-old Olajuwon Williams is from Augusta. Williams is serving ten years for armed robbery and weapons charges, according to the Department of Corrections website.

Williams was transferred from the Burruss Correctional Training Center to Telfair State Prison last night after setting fire to his cell, damaging his cell and clothing, sources tell News 12's Laura Warren.

Williams has four pending disciplinary incidents against him during his time in prison, News 12 has learned.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW-TV) --- 18-year-old Cortez Berry, who was beaten at Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth, has been transferred to another prison, News 12 has learned.

Berry was transferred to Smith State Prison in Glennville, Ga. Smith State is a high security facility.

Berry has had a mental and physical health evaluation and everything appears to be satisfactory, sources say.

News 12 has learned Berry has one disciplinary report on his record during his year at the Burruss facility. He was disciplined for being late to a haircut. That report was later dismissed.

During his time at Burruss Correctional Training Center, he was enrolled in continuing education courses.

Burruss Correctional Training Center has resumed normal hours after an overnight lockdown.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Department of Corrections said the part of Burruss Correctional Training Center, where a picture of man shown beaten was taken, is under lockdown.

The Department of Corrections stressed there is an on-going investigation into the incident and the entire facility is not under lockdown, just where the incident occurred.



News 12 at 6 o' clock/ March 30, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A mother wants answers after a picture shows her son beaten at a Georgia correctional facility. Augusta native Cortez Berry is pictured in a photo with his eye swollen shut, something around his neck resembling a noose or a leash, and two men standing over him.

Berry turned 18 Saturday, but it wasn't much of a celebration. Instead of eating birthday cake, he's nursing wounds from a prison beat down.

His mother, Demetria Harris, was first alerted by a friend that the disturbing photo of her son was circulating on Facebook Friday.

"I was like oh my God! What happened? How'd it happen? It's a terrifying picture to see," she said.

A million questions flooded her mind when she saw the photo. Was her son okay? How did a cell phone make it into the prison? Where were the guards?

"I want justice for him. I'm going to do whatever it takes to get it for him, because at the end of the day, he don't deserve this. No one deserves this," she said.

Berry landed himself in the Augusta YDC when he was 14 for assault, robbery, and theft. He was sent to the Burruss Correctional Training Center, a medium security detention center in Forsyth, Georgia last year for violating his probation.

"They're not being protected. I don't care what they're there for, they still need to be protected," said Harris.

The attack appears to be gang related. The caption of the photo posted on Facebook reads: 'When you disrespect the Nation, it brings nothing but pain and suffering.'
Experts say it's a reference to the gang, G.D. Nation, short for 'gangsta disciples.'

Cortez's aunt, Shavondria Wright was finally able to see him Saturday during visiting hours to find out what happened.

"Ten people jumped on him and just kept beating him and they choked him to sleep. Pretty much they left him there for dead," Wright said.

The family's biggest question in all of this: Where were the guards?

"He didn't get checked on until 9:45 at night. It happened at 3:15 and he didn't get checked on until 9:45," said Harris.

Now, his family wants justice and assurance their loved one will be able to pay his debt to society, without being killed.

"We could've lost him. He could've been dead. Especially when they hung the belt around his neck. He could've just been gone," said Wright.

The Department of Corrections tells News 12: The Department is fully aware and this incident is currently under investigation. The Department does not allow inmates to have access to cellphones, as possession of such contraband is deemed illegal. Introduction of cellphones into our facilities is a nationwide issue the Corrections system is facing. The Department continuously works to utilize extensive resources to combat this issue. We take very seriously our mission of protecting the public and running safe and secure facilities.