Prison Town

A Peabody-nominated deep dive into one prison in South Georgia, in a county that has three

In the midst of a federal investigation into Georgia's prisons for civil rights violations, we decided to use one prison in South Georgia as a case study. The things we found are chilling. An 88-year-old man is shot while he’s sleeping. Another man is murdered one county over. A woman is found dead in a mobile home park. And somehow they all link back to the same prison, illuminating many of the complex problems that plague our criminal justice system. This reporting is from the Center for Collaborative Journalism and The Georgia Virtue. This project was nominated for a Peabody Award. 

We published Prison Town in the Spring of 2023. 

In June 2023, 85% of residents voted against bringing a new mega-prison to Tattnall County. 

In February 2024, the state Senate unanimously approved a resolution that created a seven-member committee to examine “current issues impacting the ability of the Department of Corrections to operate secure and safe facilities and to ensure the welfare of both its staff and those in its custody.” 

In April 2024, a federal judge found Georgia prison officials in contempt of court for their treatment of inmates at the Special Management Unit citing that understaffing was not an excuse and is charging the GDC fines of $2,500 per day until they fix the conditions. 




Riots broke out at Smith State Prison on February 8, 2023. Evey Wilson Wetherbee and Jessica Szilagyi explain what this has to do with a murder that happened in Glennville, Ga. two years earlier. 


Three Booms

Marla Davis shares about the night of her husband's murder. A GBI agent takes the stand and explains the facts of their investigation. 


First Lady

Lewis Levine finds himself on the scene of multiple related crimes. The women connect back to Smith State Prison.


High Stakes

A notorious prison closes suspiciously fast. The EMS director and county coroner share their experiences and Jessica Szilagyi investigates the true cost of having three state prisons in Tattnall County.


Special Management

Attorney Frank Hogue conjures the pressure of a juror on a death penalty trial. District Attorney Wright Barksdale reframes our understanding of security. Former warden Jose Morales allows us inside Georgia's most lockdown facility before death row. New information is revealed about the third murder.



Mothers share their testimonies of how the Georgia Department of Corrections failed their sons. One more almost unbelievable story about the warden. People present solutions. 

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