Violence continues to plague Smith State Prison in Glennville as a correctional officer was killed on duty on Sunday, October 1, 2023. Correctional Officer Robert Clark was escorting two inmates from the dining hall when one offender assaulted him from behind with a homemade weapon. According to an official press release, the other inmate tried to help Officer Clark and was also assaulted. Clark and the injured inmate were transported to local hospitals.
Officer Clark, 42, had been working for the Department of Corrections for less than a year. He began at Smith State Prison in April 2023.
Inmate Layton Lester will be charged with the assault and death of Officer Clark and the assault on inmate Marko Willingham.
Smith State Prison has developed a stunning record for violence in recent years, and on February 8, 2023, Warden Brian Adams was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on multiple charges, including Bribery, False Statements and Writings, Concealment of Facts, Fraudulent documents, and Criminal Attempt under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Adams had been serving as Warden since 2019.
In 2021 the Georgia Bureau of Investigation exposed a criminal enterprise operating from inside the prison. The information came to light during a hearing concerning the murder of 88- year-old Bobby Kicklighter of Glennville. Agents revealed that the murder was a botched “hit” plot aimed at a Smith State Prison Corrections Officer who lived next door. Allegedly, that officer had been aggressive on stopping contraband that was being brought into the prison facility. Authorities said the “hit man” went to the wrong house and murdered Bobby Kicklighter.
Contraband being carried inside the prison through multiple channels has been a continuous problem at the Smith facility, and attacks on employees and inmates have occurred on a regular basis.
But these problems are not confined to Smith C.I. In fact, they are systemic throughout the Georgia Department of Corrections. According to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, 360 Department of Corrections Officers statewide have been arrested for smuggling in contraband since 2018. Another 25 were fired but not charged and that leads to the obvious question of how many are not caught. Eight out of 10 DOC employees are women with nearly half of them under age 30. DOC veterans say that is a recipe for disaster. But Georgia prisons are facing an average of 30 percent understaffing, and officials have discovered that incarcerated gang members recruit friends or allies to come to work in the prisons as officers.
Many in the Department of Corrections will openly say the above information is only the tip of the iceberg. The murder of Officer Robert Clark is shocking and a terrible loss for his family and friends. However, no one should be surprised.