The History of Georgia’s Lee Arrendale State Prison…Sort of

Incarcerated at Lee Arrendale State Prison in Alto, Georgia, our prison pen pal asked if the history of the prison might be something I could research on the Internet. One of her friends had become deeply interested in learning the background of the walls that hold them.

I told her, “Sure, why not? I may not be able to find that much, though. I know you have faith in my ability to research almost anything online, but this one might not be that easy.”

Those words were more prophetic than I knew. After two hours of combing the Net, I knew little more than those half frozen pigeons huddled on the power lines in the above photo.

Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration.

But “slight” is the operative word here. I’ll share what I found out, but the gaps in the data are bigger than the information blocks. Not only that, but some of the statements found through search engines were made without any way to cross check their accuracy.

Therefore, if any readers find inaccurate information here, please leave a correction in the comments. Additionally, if you know something about the facility’s history I was unable to find out, your comments would be more than appreciated.

Heck, if you’ve even got a photo of the place, we could use a copy of that as well. This prison isn’t exactly secret, but it’s no celebrity institution, either.

In the meantime, with all those caveats and requests in place, we’ll tell you what we’ve found out so far.

Lee Arrendale Women's Prison at Alto, Georgia.

Lee Arrendale Women’s Prison at Alto, Georgia.

First, the name. Lee Arrendale was at one time the Chairman of the Georgia Department of Corrections. The prison was named after him after he and his wife were killed in a plane crash.

Offline research, boots on the ground inside the state borders of Georgia, would undoubtedly make learning additional details a whole lot simpler. But, since that’s not an option at the moment, here’s what did not turn up on the Internet:

1. When Lee Arrendale served as Chairman.

2. What his legacy from that service might be, if any.

3. When and where he and his wife were killed in the plane crash.

4. When the prison was officially named for him.

Moving right along….

There’s a newer portion of the prison, but the original, older portion goes back to 1926–at which time, it was not used as a prison but as a TB sanitarium. As tuberculosis was more or less conquered, the need for the facility lessened. In 1950, it was turned over to the Georgia Department of Corrections. It opened as a prison in 1951.

Ew. Let’s hope they seriously sterilized that place before bringing in the convicts.

What did not turn up on the Internet:

1. The name of the TB sanitarium.

2. How many beds the facility contained.

For a time, Lee Arrendale State Prison–or whatever it was called before Arrendale’s plane crashed–housed younger male inmates, some as young as 13 years of age, only a minority of them over 25. Until sometime in the 1970’s, it fielded a tough-to-beat football team…until all the rest of the teams started refusing to play them. Public pressure eventually forced the team to disband.

The prison also gained a reputation for violence. By August of 2004, hearings were being held with abundant testimony regarding regular rapes of the most youthful offenders and the murder of eighteen year old Wayne Boatright, Jr., his windpipe crushed after he fought back in a rape gone wrong.

A publication called Creative Loafing provided details.

Lee 2 003

Lee 2 004

What a difference three months can make. In November of 2004, the biggest newspaper in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, got involved.

Lee 2 001

Lee 2 002

That did it. Boatright had been strangled to death in February of 2004. Creative Loafing published its scathing article in August of that year. The Atlanta Journal Constitution followed up in November…and the State decided it had to do something.

That something amounted to dispersing the male prisoners among other state institutions and converting Lee Arrendale to a women’s prison.

Our prison pen pal has been housed at Arrendale for…I don’t recall the exact date, but she was transferred from Metro in Atlanta well before that facility closed in 2011. She’s finishing up a long sentence and has had experience at Pulaski as well as at Metro and Arrendale, so she understands Georgia style incarceration for females pretty well. It’s no cakewalk, but it’s nothing like the pit of snakes young Wayne Boatright, Jr., faced when some of the state’s most violent male felons were housed there, either.

On the other hand, Arrendale does house Georgia’s Death Row for women. Not that Death Row is heavily populated, but it’s not quite vacant, either. The last female executed in Georgia was on March 5, 1945. There is one woman living on Death Row today.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner (aka Brookshire), now 41, was convicted of murdering her husband when she was 28 and he was 30. She recruited her lover to do the actual deed. Greg (lover) took Doug (husband) into the woods at knifepoint, forced him to his knees, clobbered him in the head with a nightstick, and then stabbed him a bunch of times.

Messy, but effective.

Apparent motive: Wishing to collect on two $10,000 life insurance policies and to profit from the couple’s $84,000 house.

Gissendaner was supposed to be executed more than a decade ago, but in her case, the appeals process is a whole ‘nother story. There’s far more data readily available on the Internet about the murder than there is about the history of the entire Lee Arrendale facility.

That’s it for now, folks. Feel free to help me fill in the gaps.


Update: June 30, 2014. Carol left a comment with a link to the following video which was filmed by National Geographic at Arrendale. I just watched it. It’s very insightful. (There are a lot of ads sprinkled throughout, so keep your clicker handy.)

I will say that in my view the only truly evil-seeming person in the film is the Deputy Warden. That witch gave me the cold chills. Made my hackles rise right up, curled my lip back in a snarl every time she came on the screen but especially when she opened her nasty mouth. Ew-w-w!!

In all fairness, I’ve also been advised that the hair-raising Deputy Warden (then) is the Warden (now) and that she actually seems to have the welfare of the inmates in mind. I’ll have to take my informant’s word for it though; I’m pretty sure she still gives me the creeps.

UPDATE: November 9, 2014.

“Anonymous” just commented on the Alto Shuffle fighting style (see comments below), based on his time there before it was converted to a women’s prison. A quick check of the offerings on YouTube brought up a video illustrating the technique. I’ve embedded the video here; enjoy.

Also, since it’s been mentioned that the prison scenes in My Cousin Vinny (the movie, circa 1992) were filmed at Alto with real inmates, here are a few screen shots from the film.

Screen shot from My Cousin Vinny, filmed at Alto, Georgia, in 1992.

Screen shot from My Cousin Vinny, filmed at Alto, Georgia, in 1992.

Screen shot from My Cousin Vinny, filmed at Alto, Georgia, in 1992.

Screen shot from My Cousin Vinny, filmed at Alto, Georgia, in 1992.

Screen shot from My Cousin Vinny, filmed at Alto, Georgia, in 1992.

Screen shot from My Cousin Vinny, filmed at Alto, Georgia, in 1992.


This page has been blessed with a contribution of images from the Alto of 1973, donated by Donald Thompson, whose comments can be seen below. In my opinion, these are historically significant items, preserved by a man who was an inmate at the time and who cared enough to not only save these mementos but to let us take a peek or two at this “blast from the past”.

Here we go.

Burt Reynolds at Alto in 1973, considering the prison for the setting in The Longest Yard.  (The movie was eventually filmed at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville.)

Burt Reynolds at Alto in 1973, considering the prison for the setting in The Longest Yard. (The movie was eventually filmed at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville.)

Water tower.

Water tower.

It’s pretty common knowledge (among those who pay attention to such things) that it’s possible for a high school dropout to attend some form of high school and receive a G.E.D. while in prison. Ditto for a bit of vocational training here and there….but it’s another thing entirely to see the evidence of these prison programs in writing, specifically in the form of a graduation program that looks a whole lot like any other. I’m thinking the yahoos out there who see inmates as something less than human would be at least mildly shocked.

“What?! This looks just like the program from when I graduated at Redneck High!”

Or something like that. The narrow mindset of some humans can be downright stunning.

George McNeal had to be one determined inmate. He’s listed as the only graduate in Electrical Repair. Can you picture yourself going through an entire job training program with no classmates to divert the attention of the instructor? That dude would be looking over your shoulder all the time!

Graduation program.

Graduation program.

Graduation program.

Graduation program.

Finally, the in-house prison newspaper. Unless you were born with the eyes of an eagle, you won’t be able to make out most of the text, but the headlines and pictures are worth the price of admission. Graduation news, goodbyes, jokes, sports, even an acknowledgement of the Inmate of the Month.

Yeah. Hold on. If you’ve never been in prison, that might sound almost humorous–although it certainly wasn’t funny to either the inmate or the prison staff at the time. I mean, Inmate of the Month? Really? Gotta be careful with that accolade, guys. Designate a man as Inmate of the Month and he might decide to stay there forever!

If the Inmate of the Month happened to be a lifer, of course, that would be all too literally true.

Alto 5
Alto 6
Alto 7
Alto 8
Alto 10
Alto 11

Interesting ads on that last page, right? So, where did the ad money go? Into programs for the inmates?

Hope springs eternal.


Just finished an excellent book, titled Into the Darkness Out Into the Light: One Man’s Journey, by Grant Cole. During 22 years of drug use, abuse, and dealing, before finding redemption in a rather impressive fashion, Cole was at one time incarcerated at Alto–and includes a chapter in his book titled Alto Blues. I just finished reading the book and, without tossing out any spoilers, can highly recommend it. To check it out on Amazon, CLICK HERE.

Yes, that does look a little strange, providing a link to somebody else’s book when I have my own to promote (on this page and on Amazon), but Into the Light is too good, and too relevant to our ongoing discussion of Lee Arrendale State Prison, to ignore.

264 thoughts on “The History of Georgia’s Lee Arrendale State Prison…Sort of

  1. Well, I wouldn’t have heard of it, either, if our friend hadn’t been shipped there. It’s right up near the northeast corner of Georgia. Current DOC page shows a capacity of 1,471 inmates. No clue how many are actually in residence at the moment.

  2. I was her 1n 1988 can tell you many true crazy stories; there is a reason you cant find information or pictures. I was 17.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Tony. I have no doubt you have the stories–and if there are any you care (and dare) to share–well, excuse the accidental rhyming, but do feel free to speak out.

    Or not, if it’s safer that way.

  4. P.$. For photos of the prison, watch the movie My Cousin Vinnie. It was filmed at Arrendale and used real inmates as extras.

  5. Wow! Thanks! I didn’t know that, but My Cousin Vinnie is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ll have to give it a closer look next time around.

  6. If you need more info on L.A.C.I. I can help you out. I was there from 1990-1996.

  7. I was in that place 1985-87 I went their when I was 17 back then it was just known as as Alto State Prison. What you hear about that place is true. Some of the guards were monsters themselves; they used to carry nightsticks; I still have the scars from them.

  8. Thanks, Chad. Even now, as a women’s facility, some of the guards are pretty nasty. Not to the extent of the scars you got, but we keep hearing about things like staff getting rough with a prisoner in cuffs and then claiming the prisoner assaulted them, writing them up, petty ugliness of that sort….

  9. Before it was arrendale an when I was their it was Georgia industrial Institute if you look you can find some articles about it back in September 1985 2 guys tried to escape by shooting their way out with 2 guns smuggle in by a guard they shot 2 inmates an one guard in the foot but never made it out of what was known as the cell block back then

  10. Thanks, Chad. I don’t have time to do the research at the moment–but that’s a mighty interesting tidbit, right there. Bet the guard who did the smuggling paid the piper for that one!

  11. Hey, I was just housed there for diagnostic from Aug2012 to Oct2012. After then I was transferred to another state facility to futher serve my time. Lee Arrendale Prison is known throughout out the other prisons as one of the worst prisons. Right now there are 4 women’s facilities for inmates in Georgia. The food is horrible because inmates that has the “kitchen” detail steals all the seasonings. So if your an unfortunate inmate you will starve unless you make other inmates beds, clean on thier days to clean, sell your mental health meds or (sad to say) have a girlfriend that is willing to feed you. About 90% of the population is gay. I feel because most of the women have a lot of time and feel the need to have a companion. I was convictedof aggravated assault so fighting is quite natural to me but I never faught there. But I will say there are inmates that has been there a lot longer that prey on unconfrontational women. Those are the women that get there things stolen. During diagnostics, they

  12. Thanks, C.H. Looks like your comment got cut off in mid-sentence for some reason, but we appreciate your input. Feel free to stop back by to finish what you had to say, any time.

  13. Does anyone know anything about housing unit D-H? My daughter is currently in there.

  14. I don’t personally, but one of our readers may. I can ask our friend who’s there now–she probably does know pretty much every unit to one degree or another–but it may take a while. She’s lost her phone privileges for a while.

    Not her fault, either, but for her protection we won’t go into details.

  15. i waz in alto from 2000 to 2005 i waz a juvenile it waz a ruff prison bt i made it tru 12 prisons on my 10 years bid it waz rapping and fighting all the time

  16. Twelve prisons in ten years, eh? That’s about the way I moved around out in the world as a civilian. Didn’t have to “rap and fight” all the time, though, unless you count fighting to find a new job every time I told a boss to take a hike. 🙂

    Glad to hear you made it through.

  17. Does anyone know if there is a rule that an inmate cannot contact family for a certain length of time when they are initially placed in the prison and if so, how long? I have not heard from my daughter since she went in on March 31, 2014. Thank you.

  18. I’m not sure about that; let’s hope a reader with the answer to your question stops by to fill us in.

    Our friend in the prison has had a number of times when her phone contact was limited due to being in lockdown for one reason or another. In fact, she’s currently going through one of those situations as we speak. However, even then snail mail is allowed out as long as the inmate has an envelope and a stamp.

    It seems like there MIGHT have been a delay when our friend was first transferred to Alto…but that’s been some time ago, and I’m not trusting my memory to be sure about it.

  19. Alto hands? Hm. Seems like maybe you got cut off somehow, just as you were getting started. Feel free to stop back by and finish the thought, should the opportunity arise.

  20. I was told the first 90 days there is no contact with family and no contact with inmates, you’re in some sort of segregation (part of initial arrival). Not sure if it’s to get the inmate acclimated to the situation they are in & realization … This is the real deal.

  21. I was in lee arrendale for over two years when I first arrived the food was ok and the fighting wasn’t really that bad unless you lived in certain dorms luckily everybody minded their business in mine now everybody does their down low business just like the streets this is where they live the prison is their street. Some have been there since it became a womans prison. If your weak and dont stand up for yourself the ones who think everyone owes them will steal. As for when metro got shut down they set Kelly up with her own nice living space she doesnt have contact with others in the prison so I know she is lonely. The heat did not work well during the winter so your always cold and if you dont have a fan you heat to death in the summer. You can mail letters during diagnostics but it takes time to get your number in the system also you have to have paytel. Go ahead and get a green dot card with money on it if you dont have a credit card because thats how u will send them money when you get their gdc number without money they wont have shampoo deodorant food on Friday Saturday and Sunday its hard inside. I fixed lockers washed clothes made beds etc. But I was never nobody s b…. I never done anything stupid I worked hard and even got off parole ten months early so if any of your family will just stay in there room listen to there radio write alot and keep there nose clean they can get out on time

  22. Thanks for the very helpful comment, Tabitha. It sounds right on target, from what our friend (who’s still there) tells us, with one update I need to mention: There’s a website now, called JPay, that is VERY helpful for communicating with inmates in Arrendale and other prisons around the country. The inmate can (when not on lockdown or other restriction) send and receive email through JPay, and also receive money that way. After years and years of the hassle of sending money orders, it’s now easy as pie. I just log on to JPay, and a few clicks later, the money is on its way to post to the inmate’s prison account. There’s a limit, and every transaction costs a $7.95 fee, but it beats the heck out of the hassle of driving to get a money order, addressing the money order and the envelope, etc.

  23. My brother was incarcerated in Alto for 18 long, horrible months. It was meant for young offenders but often times older inmates were still there long after the cut off age of 25. The original intent for that prison was to house young offenders together therefore minimizing them being preyed upon by older, more dedicated inmates. That plan failed miserably. The stories I can tell you will keep you up at night. I have many letters from inmates that were there when my brother was. Trust me, the old saying that “an inmate’s family does the same time an inmate does” is more than true. I still have pictures we took while in the visitation room on visitation days.

  24. Thanks for commenting, Emily. I know what you mean about the family doing time right along with the inmate. Our friend (the one who’s in Alto right now) has become family over the years, and the ups & downs are…powerful. Thankfully, it’s not as bad for the women of today as it was when your brother did his time, but it’s still no cakewalk.

  25. The National Geographic Channel did an episode on the Lee Arrendale Prison a few years ago called Hard Time – World Without Men. You can see the 45 minute episode here:

    Also, the obit for the Arrendales is on It doesn’t contain much of interest except the date of deaths from injuries sustained in a plane crash, March 9, 1990.

    Last, Piedmont College’s newspaper, Yonah, reported that the Arrendales were killed when their twin-engine plane crashed on the College Golf Course on March 9, 1990.

    Hope this helps.

  26. Thanks, Carol. I just watched the film and was impressed enough to embed it in the post.

  27. Thanks for the update. Not sure I’d consider that good news, though, were I an inmate. Every time I watch the footage of that Deputy Warden (now Warden), I feel the hairs on the back of my neck lift straight up, my lip starts to curl, and I find myself snarling. I would definitely not want to find myself in a situation where that woman was the boss of me.

  28. I have been to lee arrendale 2 times in four years for mistakes I keep making. the 9 KELLY0 issue for not being executed is they can not execute if she has a broken bone. she keeos her arm broke so she can stay alive. they need to get it over with. the taxpayers money is keeping her locked up.

  29. Thanks for the insight, Debra. I hadn’t heard about that “trick”, if you want to call it that. Of course, if We the People kept breaking her arm, they’d call it “cruel and unusual punishment”, but I guess if she does it to herself…interesting loophole. Not cool or anything, but definitely interesting.

  30. My daughter is at Lee Arrendale at this time. They are treated worse than dogs. The guards are more dishonest than the inmates. My daughter has not been in trouble but the things I have been told that she has seen is your worst nightmare. And there is nothing loved ones can do but pray.

  31. Thanks for commenting, TJ. That’s grim enough to hear, but not all that surprising. Our friend doesn’t get in trouble often–she’s been in the system long enough to know how to survive as well as anyone–but when she does, it is sometimes due to a staff member’s misconduct (as you say), not hers. She tells us, though, that it’s kind of like the world in general; there are good and bad among the staff just as there are in any group of people. Unfortunately, when it’s someone with power over others who is acting badly, the consequences for the victims (in this case, inmates) are greatly magnified.

  32. most people don’t know this but all the prison scenes in the movie “my cousin viney” was filmed at lee arrendale.

  33. You know, Matthew, I think I did hear that once before, but had forgotten about it. That’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Thanks for commenting.

  34. I was there for 3 months in 1995 was housed in G2, was sent there for mental health reasons from Caldwell in Blairsville. I can tell you it was pure hell from what I can remember, anyone who has endured Alto knows what I mean. I know things happened to me when I was there but my memories are so suppressed. I pray that one day I will be able to deal with what it is.

  35. Thanks for posting, Seth. About your suppressed memories: I realize a lot of mental health types believe those need to be released, recognized, “dealt with”, and all that…but it’s been my experience that’s not always the case. In fact, quite a few times it turns out to be “99% bull—t”. My wife is a prime example. About 17 years ago, just before she bottomed out and quit drinking entirely, she had one day where she was bingeing, bombed out of her gourd, conditions were just right, and she unloaded onto me a whole lot of stuff from earlier in her life. I’d not heard of it before. She told me that she hadn’t been holding out; she’d just repressed (and/or suppressed) the memories until that moment when the triggers were all lined up just so.

    To this day, she has never “gone there” mentally again. She re-repressed the memories–and I believe with all my heart that it’s a good thing she did. She knows she unloaded on me, and that did let her release some of the pressure from her subconscious, but I’m the only one in the world who knows all of it now. She’s got more than enough to handle, including mental health issues and a host of physical ailments including Alzheimer’s…so, over time, she’s forgetting more rather than remembering more.

    If your need to be able to “deal with it” is strong enough that there’s no other option, hey, then that’s how it goes. But sometimes it really is better to let sleeping dogs lie, and only you can make that decision.

  36. I was there from 1997 until they moved us along to make it a women’s prison. Some things I haven’t seen mentioned yet: The legends of the ghost of Rambo, an inmate said to have been killed in the Annex back in the day, the ‘Alto Shuffle’, slang for a particular kind of flourish while fighting peculiar to the prison, the asbestos found in the main building living areas that forced the re opening of A and B buildings in 1999, the fact that the old walk in coolers for the hospital morgue were still used for storing clothing and supplies when we left and may still be today, the fact that the old annex was torn down in 2000 or so, Dead Man’s Curve, a place beside the Old Annex building that was notorious in its day for being a place to ambush people. ..I could go on, but those are some things that immediately to mind when I think of the things people associate with that place.

  37. i was in the prison from 1976 to 1980,there was a huge out break of tb.a lot of guys had it.i had the germ and had to take a pill every day for one year.when i was there it was the alto bow,you would use your elbo for fightiing.still have my i.d. card.also was from ohio,a yank and the rebs. dident like that,made it much harder.but i made,and come out the better man.D.Hawk

  38. Thanks, Danny. From your account, it would seem pretty obvious that the people in charge did NOT thoroughly TB-proof the sanitarium before it was converted to a prison. The info on the Alto bow is interesting. Clearly, both the Alto shuffle and the Alto bow are designed for infighting, close work–which makes total sense in a prison environment. It’s not like you’re going to have 40 acres in which to move around when things are going down.

    Glad to hear you came out the better man.

  39. I was in alto in the mid 50’s for almost 3 years.Three inmates killed a guard,excaped but were soon recaptured. Don’t know what happened to them. It wasen’t so bad when I was there as long as you kept your nose clean. I was 15 when I went in and 18 when I got out

  40. R. Pryor, thanks for the information. Sounds like you did all right, getting in and out in one piece. I hadn’t come across anything about the killing of the guard, but a lot of things that happened in the 1950’s didn’t make the big time national news.

  41. I’m very interested in info from 1973-74. My husband was there those years and I just found out about this a year ago. He was prob 17-18-19. Years before we met. He has been deceased for 15 yrs. I’ve heard a lot about his time there and have questions. Can anyone help me?

  42. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, KyleesBB. People do keep commenting here, so there’s a fair chance that sooner or later someone will address that time period.

  43. I sure will. I have letters he wrote to his grandma while incarcerated and heard he was transferred in middle of night due to a bad fight. Need answers, thank you for responding.

  44. You’re welcome. Alto was known for “bad fights” for decades; what you heard was probably 100% true.

  45. My thoughts and prayers to anyone serving there,and their families.My Grandfather slept under the Alto roof for many years from the 60’s to the late 70’s.He called it “The butcher shop”.I just wished he was here to comment.He died in the early 80’s.

  46. Thanks, Dee. It’s the first time I’d heard that term (“the butcher shop”) applied to Alto, but from everything I’ve been learning from the comments, it certainly fits. And thus, in a sense, your grandfather lives on….

  47. what your seeing here is nothing as to how “ALTO” was back in the 80s.
    that place is a cake walk now. I remember 60 min. going in there interviewing… LOL…
    alto was the place in Ga. for 17 to 20 to be sent 21 or above you went to Jackson Diag. Alto was full of angry teens that the guards had little control of. I recall the day I watch an office get the crap beat out of him with his 2-way radio. (the old all metal body radios) i recall the 1st time I saw a guy get killed… walking up the hill going back to the dorms. the guy got his head smashed in with an aluminum softball bat… he just rolled down the hill. guards didn’t help him he just layed where he stopped rolling. the guards were to worried about them selfs. about 40 min later you could hear the heil coming to take him to Atl. for what reason he was dead before he stopped rolling. back then they had some kind of plastic spoons (no metal) that could go through the dish washer with out melting. downside was the metal detectors didn’t pick-em up. ever seen a person cut open with a plastic spoon… its a sight to behold. if they used metal at least the metal detectors had a chance at getting them. so many stories so long ago. after “ALTO” went lockdown and was preparing for transition everything went quiet. google that place you won’t find anything from my day. maybe best that way. i was young and strong back then somewhat of a salesman now. i carried my fights well enough as in time I mixed in with little crap. but I saw many that didn’t. ever see a guy use M&M as makeup? WOW. just shake your head and keep walking. you folks have worries LOL you have no idea what happened in that old dark turn of the century TB hospital. i remember entering that place and my stomach near collapsed on its self. just old creepy and scared as crap. in time all things work out as they should. i got myself together and have a great life. i got my record expunged and can now even cary a pistol with a C.C. permit but it wasn’t easy. took 20yrs of hard work. i am able to spoil my kids we have a nice house I drive a BMW X5 and do privet school maybe its wrong but in my mind maybe its to keep them from a side of life that I’ve seen and rather them not. good luck

  48. Nothing wrong with sending your kids to a private school if you can do it.

    I definitely know what you mean about not being able to find the “older” Alto records by Googling. I did a bunch of that before writing the original post. It was obvious the records had been scrubbed as clean as they could get them.

    As for “old hospitals” (such as the TB sanitarium), I’ve seen a hint or two elsewhere. As part of a psych class I took in college, we once toured Boulder, MT, the state facility for the developmentally disabled. I took the tour in 1969. Got our tour guide (who ran half the programs there at the time) aside and found out that Robin Hall (one of the buildings) had only been “cleaned up” a few years earlier, around 1965. Up until then, the residents were chained to the walls. My informant told me the stench was so bad they had to rip out the floors and replace them.

  49. My grandfather was warden of Georgia Industrial Institute from mid 50’s to mid 60’s. He believed every prisoner especially because they were juveniles could be rehabilitated and be a solid member of society when released. He would be turning over in his grave to know what has happened to the prison reform system since his death in the late 60’s. He brought the 1st ever in the U.S. accredited high school to Georgia Industrial Institute and in fact of the 1st graduating class one of the boys went on to play college basketball at a top college. Others in that class and those who graduated in the years to follow did not re-enter prison. He started a program called “Operation Teenager” whereby he took boys from the prison who were students out to public schools to tell their stories to teenagers. Unfortunately, the Georgia Department of education w pressure from parents stopped this program. He started the football team for the boys there that is mentioned in this thread, again pressure from the outside stopped this program. My grandfather believed and coined the phrase-“It is better to build boys than to mend men”. I wish his legacy had continued, he fought the system because he believed so strongly in rehabilitation and 2nd chances.

  50. Thanks for telling us about your grandfather, Vickie. I’m one of those who think pretty much as he did. Fighting the system is never easy and most improvements do tend to dissipate/disappear after the passing of a given reformer. Which doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. One Soul salvaged is well worth the price of the whistle.

  51. I was there June and July 2014 for was hell.I was told to “cuff up” for no reason -by a power starved guard .cuff up means to immediately face the wall,touch your nose to the wall,with your hands -palms touching-behind your back,to be handcuffed.when I say” IMMEDIATELY”your face best be on the wall palms touching. We were called “convicts”. I am thankful I was shipped to another prison.

  52. Thanks for stopping by, Marlene. Our friend has been there for some years now. She’s mentioned the occasional run-in with a power starved guard or two. Fortunately, according to her, they’re not all like that–but of course it only takes one.

  53. I was 17 in GII aka Alto in 1974 until being transferred at night to another prison. Alto was hell. Fights, Rapes by inmates on inmates and perverted guards on A side cell block where sissies were housed. Riots city vs. city. You were housed in 3 areas: cell block was for classification before assignment to a dormitory or the VCR program (Vocation Rehabilitation), dormitories and dorm. 10 was like the first one you went to. I can’t describe to you the food, and the unsanitary conditions. It was cruel, brutal, dehumanizing, animalistic, barbaric, and degradation of people was by inmates and guards was the setting! Upon entering the prison you could feel a spirit of death, rape, violation, and anger that set the atmosphere for your tenure. Thank God I survived 5 GA prisons Alto was the worst!

  54. My daughter is sentenced as a First Offender……..she is at ASP for diagnostics now. Since she is First Offender, her name will not be published on the DOC website. I called her attorney to get them to call and get her number so I could go ahead and get necessary accounts set up. They told me that Arrendale would not give them the number due to confidentiality reasons. She was married to a K-9 cop in the town we are from and within 7 days of him throwing her out of the house, she was set up on 2 drug sales. I do not agree with what she did but after paying 2 lawyers nearly $20,000 you’d think they’d be good for something. They sure took our money and sold her down the river. Her arrest was in 2013 and she just went to court in Feb 2015. Since her arrest she has moved out of this county, obtained her EMT license and is a voluntary firefighter. It’s not like she did not rehabilitate herself but she is just ready to close this chapter and I am going to be the mother I am supposed to and give her the 2nd chance I feel everyone in the world deserves. Never been in trouble for anything before this nor since. However, it is so hard to fight a dirty system. When I say she was First Offender…….I don’t mean she just chose this arrest to plea FO, I mean the worst she has EVER done was get a speeding ticket or 2. But, everywhere you look there is corruption and injustice in all counties………some are just worse than others.

  55. Thomas: Thanks for commenting–and congratulations on having survived Alto in the ultra-bad old days.
    Jan: Got it. That sort of thing, with an irritated officer setting people up, happens all the time and probably in every state. My wife and I came close to being on the short end of the stick in 1999. Fortunately, we did not do drugs and our “inner radar” was beeping loudly; we scooted out of South Dakota mere minutes prior to the arrival (at the place we’d just vacated) of an entire convoy of Sheriff’s Dept. vehicles. It’s our opinion that had they snagged us, they would have magically “found” the drugs they needed to make an arrest.

  56. I served 10 years in the gdc, most of it here. I have some tales for anyone interested, not all of them bad, but I’ve seen some things… the place, the Alto shuffle, some of the ‘legends’, they’re true. On the other hand, I’m sure that I’m not the only man who came of age there… that place being our reality, there are some good memories also. Hit me up of interested in stories or with questions.

  57. Also, anonymous in Nov 2014 knows what he’s taking about. He’s been there.

  58. Thanks again, Jeremiah. I never doubted Anonymous’s account for a second, but it’s always good to have an extra tier of validation. Appreciate the input.

    The site’s spam-grabber thought your first comment might be spam because of the link to your email, so it held it for me to take a look at. I think it’s worth keeping up for a while; you may have some folks who really need to chat. If you get hit with the wrong sort, though, let me know; I can edit your comment without deleting everything, and removing your email link wouldn’t take me more than a minute.

  59. Thanks, brother. And im comfortable with that email being available as well as my actual name. I was there and for anyone who wants or needs to talk about their time in Alto I’m happy to be available. Some of that stuff, it’s taken years to set in…

  60. I’d also like to add that the place has a lot of stray cats…i know of at least one guard who adopted one, I also managed it. I had an Alto cat who lived with my father and then my mother after he passed. There’s a story there as well. Smuggling a cat out of a prison is an interesting thing. I’ve also got a brick from the old annex.

  61. I was there 1986 till 1992 then went to gsp reidsville.It was called little reidsville or Alto.there was a lot of violence a lot of gang fights.a lot of rapes a lot of stabbings the guards would just turn there heads on the violence the only time they would come in the dorm was the count they carried big black jack sticks it was either city or country it was 10 to 1 majority African American you didn’t have a chance they would steal your stuff if you didn’t do nothin they would rape you SMU was called the block then you go across the yard to either main building or annex bad place….

  62. Jeremiah Shaw: You’re welcome brother. Wonder if the cats are still around? Our friend there now (women’s prison) has been there for years but hasn’t mentioned seeing one.
    c. moore: Reckon that figures. The rapes if you didn’t do anything about having your stuff stolen, that is. A place as harsh as that, not standing up for yourself over one thing would most certainly mark you as a docile target for upping the ante. Reminds me of an article I read recently about squirrels. Some of the aggressive ones will even kill and eat rabbits if the rabbits happen to be either injured or docile by nature. The gentler the bunny, the quicker he’s going to get eaten.

  63. My daughter is in A:LTO prison. I pray to God for and everyone in that prison. I am believing God to have her transferred to another prison. Meanwhile I continue to plead the blood of Jesus over her and everyone at the prison. Please join with me and believe God for all of their safety. I believe no weapon formed against them will prosper. Is. 54:17. May God have mercy and his grace be upon of us with family in that prison. May the peace of God be with us all.

  64. Mary, I’m a member of a non-Christian religion and therefore phrase my prayers a bit differently, but there’s no question in my mind that the more inmates who have people on the outside doing whatever they can to help, the better. That said, our friend is maintaining well in Alto as it exists today. It’s certainly not an easy hitch, but there are friendships that sometimes form and miracles that occur in the most unlikely circumstances.

  65. I don’t really know what to say except that my experience at Alto impacted over two decades of my life. I went to prison at 16 in the prime of it’s violent history even though it stretches decades. People had no fear of anything once you survived that place. If there ever was a hell on earth, it was Alto. Take all the bad bits you know and realize that it barely scratches the surface of what people there were forced to endure. And this is coming from a survivor of Alto, imagine what it was like for the disadvantaged or weak individuals there. And there was no escape, no safe place. It was literally kill or be killed at times. That place showed me the evil humans were capable of. Picture yourself as a teenager in he’ll, now picture Satan threatening to send you to Alto if you’re bad. It is all true and worse. Good luck to everyone who survived. And Rambo story is true, was a 14 ” lawnmower blade made into shank, saw it in person.

  66. Thanks, Charlie. I can’t add much to that, but I do really appreciate your comment.

  67. I was in Alto from 1980 [I was transferred from Hardwick prison, I had a ‘zip-6’] til Dec. 31st. 1983. I didn’t have an EF #. Mine was EL-#133909. I was sent to Dorm. 13 in the Annex. 14 & 13 were the most violent by FAR. Before I even made it to the dorm I saw a dude get jumped at ‘dead mans curve’ and stabbed in the neck,…………..with a F^%&* PORKCHOP BONE!! Even though I was a vet walking in the door I still had to fight. Luckily I happen to be pretty well versed in the pugilistic arts and I don’t scare easily. I don’t care who calls me a liar but I saw a working chainsaw in dorm 13. Several zip-guns with 38 cal. bullets too. I’m 54 now [With a B.A.] and I’ve done time in Ga. State, Fla. State, and over 7 Federal Prisons from Miami to Pennsylvania, to Oklahoma City, to Atlanta and NOTHING even comes close to the total insanity and savage violence of Alto. Even as kids our parents used to threaten us with Alto. A REAL hell-on-Earth. If any of my old fellow Alto ex-convicts recognize my name feel free to contact me. True story.

  68. Thanks, Wayne. I can definitely see how a pork chop bone would work. The working chainsaw had to be right up there for homicidal creativity, one would think. For obvious reasons, I’m not sharing any of these stories with our female friend until she gets released, but I’m betting some of them (the violence events) will make her eyes pop.

  69. I was in alto 1981. To 1982 then I was moved to Mount Vernon Correctional Institute I can tell you stories of Mount Vernonan alto that would make you sick but I now work for the state of Florida I learned my lesson the hard way backing the day we go out to gladiator school at the time this all out there was this was hell of all hells you hope to live to see the next day I was on 9 it was cold and sad at one time an inmate was printing money and the guards was spending it if you have any questions you can call me at 904-408-9955 rob god bless

  70. Rob, I kept your final comment, just deleted the first two tries that had only part of the info included in your final version. May the blessings be.

  71. To Mary near the top of the page: it sounds to me like D-Unit, H-Rangs. A unir waw’dorma 1,4, 6

  72. Jeremiah, I couldn’t spot the “Mary” post just now, but maybe I’m just not seeing things right at the moment…. 🙂

  73. when i can get to a functioning computer, I will compose a proper response here. Also, I do not mind if you share my email, just wait for that message and I will include it in that message

  74. A functioning computer definitely helps. I’ve used more than one city library computer when I couldn’t get to my own.

  75. My mom is there…she’s been there since last year she was transferred from Pulaski…She says it’s horrible there but better than Pulaski….she’s also told me stories about alto…yes it was a tb hospital it housed over 100 people. She said she’s heard screaming when there’s no one around…she’s walked to the dining hall early in the mornings an there would be a 3rd shadow beside her an the guard…All.around creepy she says…I’m going to visit Sunday I’ll grab a few pics for u

  76. Thanks, Tina; I look forward to receiving the pics. In fact, if you don’t object, I wouldn’t mind posting a few if you get some good ones. (I would never post any including your Mom, of course.)

    It doesn’t surprise me to hear about ghost influences at Alto. I’d be surprised if there weren’t.

    Also, our friend has also done time at Pulaski and agrees with you that Pulaski is worse than Alto as the two women’s prisons stand today.

  77. I don’t mind at all…I can only get pics of the outside since they won’t allow us to bring our phones inside…I wish we could. It’d be nice to get some of the inside an a few recents of my mom…I’m sure a lot has changed on the inside…My mom.said it had been remodeled…I don’t know though…tht place still gives me the creeps

  78. Inside pics would be nice, yes, but I do understand why they don’t allow the phones inside. Not surprised that the place gives you the creeps; a quick read-through of the comments on this page alone would leave one rather expecting plenty of creepiness.

  79. my daughter was just transferred to alto yesterday…..this is not her first offense, and she doesn’t seem to *get it* why she’s incarcerated….i’m definitely concerned for her safety, but i truly hope that if it’s as horrible as what i’m reading, maybe that will be the push she needs to straighten her out….i hope this doesn’t come off as sounding uncaring, but we can’t seem to get her to realize that a quiet boring life is preferable to one behind bars….

  80. Bella, a word of encouragement:

    1. Yes, Alto was about as deadly as you could get when it was a men’s prison.

    2. No, it’s not a fun place to be even now.

    3. BUT our friend–who’s been incarcerated for many years in Georgia and more than five years at Alto–states unequivocally that it’s definitely a better facility than Pulaski.

    That said, you hit the nail on your head when you said your daughter doesn’t seem to “get it”. Unfortunately, from what my wife and I know from 19 years of communicating with prison pen pals and ten years of being in touch with our friend specifically, she’s in the majority; it’s a relatively small percentage of inmates who do eventually come to realize they’re entirely responsible for their own circumstances and conditions.

    One can hope, though; some inmates do suddenly wake up and “get it”. May the blessings be.

  81. Bella: Absolutely.
    Tina: Understood; I’m not surprised. Glad you got some photos for yourself, though.

  82. I realize this is an older article but I work at Arrendale now and could give you a lot of information if you’re still interested. Email me for more info!

  83. I would sure like to hear what an employee has to say as my daughter is there She never complains about anything going on. I live out of state so am not able to go there. She has bipolar and just recently is going into the general population, not sure where she was before. She’s been there since March 2014. Thanks.

  84. Kate, thanks for checking in. As Carol says, yes, we’d love to hear what an employee has to say. However, you said to email you…but I don’t see how to do that. Am I missing your email address somewhere?

    Also, please note that while this is indeed an older ARTICLE, the DISCUSSION is ongoing and fairly current. All contributions are welcome.

  85. I just got out of Alto this week. I have never been in trouble before and was there for financial crimes. It was no joke.
    Violence was something I had to get used to seeing. I had to learn to be assertive with people. I never visited SMU but I heard stories about the crap that went on up there and then they would just turn around and let them out again into GP.
    I was in the Faith and Character dorm so it was pretty peaceful where I was.
    They recently closed A unit (mental health) and put them all in SMU to install AC but it’s no place for mentally I’ll prisoners to be. They also reopened Main 1 which had been closed due to asbestos but they needed due to over crowding. Some days there are 4 officers for 600 women in B Unit. Way under staffed.
    If you want more info just ask me. Carol, what is your daughters name? I might know who she is
    Hope this helps.

  86. Danielle, she is mentally ill and was in A for a long time, now in General Population. Do you know her? What can you tell me about what goes on there, she seems quite happy.

  87. I don’t think I knew her but A unit is tries hard to rehabilitate. They have all kinds of therapy. If she GP’ed then she must be doing really well and mental health will keep a close eye on her. Tell her to get involved in all the classes she can.

  88. Will do thanks. Can you tell me what GP is like? She is highly able to be influenced. They put her in GP to see if she does well which will help her get paroled in Oct. Thanks.

  89. KC: First off, let me say I’m glad to hear you made it out. That has to be a good thing. Secondly, that stat–4 staff for 600 inmates–was one I had not heard. Our friend never mentioned that specifically. All I can say is…wow. As for wanting more info, definitely…if you can spare the time to drop a new comment every now and then. I’ve got so much on my plate these days that simply monitoring this page and responding to comments is about all I can manage.
    Carol: Being highly able to be influenced is scary for any inmate, let alone the mentally ill. I can underscore what KC said, though: Taking all the classes she can is a really, really good idea. It will (a) give her something to think about other than the scheming and gossiping a lot of inmates do and (b) definitely help her with the Parole Board.

  90. Grace, who is your sister? I recently found out that the laundry facilities burned down. Interesting times there!!! Carol, as far as her being influenced, a lot of women are. Just tell her to keep a very small group of friends. If they don’t think she is doing well, they will move her back but, usually someone will take someone from A unit under their wing.

  91. Her name is Amanda Chaney! When we went labor day weekend she told me about the laundry facilities! Was the first time I visited 100% beeter than Pulaski!

  92. You’re more than welcome, Grace. Frankly, it’s the readers who’ve made it, as you say, an “awesome” page. The original post wasn’t all that much. 🙂

  93. Haven’t we all–at least, those of us who’ve read the comments on this page certainly have.

  94. i was at GII from 1972-1974. maximum security considered the worst in georgia. i graduated high school from alto ed and eval center. i was the editor of the prison newspaper “The Beacon” (I have a copy or two). i have pictures of burt reynolds from interview i did when he considered alto for the longest yard which he ended up doing at reidsville. saw 100’s of young men raped and riots were frequent. very violent. i ended up receiving a full pardon later in life for volunteer work and life changes.

  95. Anonymous: Thanks for commenting. Don’t know why your post didn’t pop up on my radar when you did it back in October.
    Donald: First off, GOOD FOR YOU! (Both for surviving and for the life changes + pardon.) If you ever get truly bored (as if), please feel free to scan or take a digital photo of one of those “The Beacon” papers and email it to me. (My email address is listed on the Contact page.) I’d love to be able to add that newspaper image, or even several of them, to this page–IF, of course, you think that would be a good thing.

    I didn’t know Burt Reynolds had considered Alto for The Longest Yard. One of the better movies he made, in my opinion.

  96. I sent you 1 page of The Beacon for 1973 to make sure the format works. If you are able to view, I will send the other two pages. I will also send graduation program for 1973 for Alto Ed. and Eval center, picture of the old water tower for GII, and picture of Burt Reynolds on outside walkway. It is nice to know that some of this piece of history might be saved through what you are doing and might be of interest to your readers. Thank you.

  97. Donald, I really appreciate your efforts, too. I’ve reviewed the image just fine but need to discuss it with you prior to posting it here. Will give you the details via email.

  98. Does anyone know anything about Building C being torn down because of asbestos? Was this recent? A rumor? My daughter is in Pulaski for life and thinking about asking t be transferred to Alto.

  99. Heard something about that, but can’t recall the details.

    NOTE: If your daughter is thinking about Alto, as far as we’ve been told by a woman who spent years in Alto before being transferred to Pulaski, Alto is a better run prison–at least it was a year or so ago, when she got transferred. So she’s probably thinking right, though as we all know, there are no guarantees.

  100. In 1972 Building C was called the Annex and was the most violent and inhumane part of the prison. It consisted of Dorms 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14. There were very few windows and no hot water in those frigid North Georgia winters. You had to have a minimum 5 year sentence, but most were life plus. I had the privilege of taking several youth groups to Alto in the 90’s as part of a “scared straight” program and was told that the Annex had been condemned. I was told there was an asbestos problem and it was no longer habitable. I don’t know if the Annex has been demolished yet or not.

    Donald (1972-1974)

  101. Asbestos…or political heat. Either one would be a possibility for a given group of politicians….

    I’d heard some things about Annex C but not about the “scared straight” programs visiting Alto. That’s new data for this page; thanks for the insight.

  102. I have grown up next to this prison. So has multiple generations of my family. I am not sure of the time frame, but at least 30 years ago, a prisoner escaped and hid under my great great grandmother’s back porch. He snuck in and stole all the black pepper and frozen hotdogs. They did end up catching thE guy, I think it was maybe 3 days later. I will have to call my grandmother to get better details

  103. At least he snuck in. Must have really been craving…heavily peppered hot dogs? Huh. I’m looking forward to hearing those “better details” from your grandmother; thanks for commenting.

  104. I remember a story just like that from 1973. There were a few escapes during that year. The pepper was to cover his smell from the dogs and “dogboys” that were looking for him. The air raid siren would go off once they were discovered to alert the community of the escape. There was another escape that year after the guards left the dorm back stairwell door open after cleaning. Six people escaped (I came real close to going with them). All but two were captured very quickly. Those two (Charles? and Cherry Buster) made it to Atlanta where Cherry Buster was killed in a shootout with the police. Charles went on to kill a pregnant woman while on escape and was sentenced to death after being caught. Not sure if he was put to death or had his sentence commuted. Not sure if Charles was his name. I think Cherry Buster’s name was Wayne.


  105. To Vickie Matthews Couch who posted Jan, 2015 – Thank God for your Grandfather who started the high school. I am a graduate of the high school and tutored some of the inmates. I was fortunate after that to start college through Truett McConnell College. I now have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Atlanta University. Additionally, the program OperationTeenager was the foundation for a program that I was selected for called Operation Get Smart. Three of us would go out in the community and tell our stories in hope of helping others and ourselves. I remember speaking at Tallulah Falls high school, local radio station, and a civic group in Social Circle, Ga. Thank you and your family.


  106. Donald, I’d say Wayne Buster’s street name (Cherry) pretty much says it all. You obviously made the right call by not going with that bunch (duh). Our destinies hang by such fragile threads at times. It’s long been my observation it takes a lifetime to build a solid reputation and a split second to destroy it–using O.J. Simpson’s life story as an example.

    The pepper to throw off the dogs makes total sense. Bet he was looking for cayenne pepper and had to settle for black, but hey.

    Also, thanks for mentioning your Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work. I wound up settling for a Bachelor’s in Psychology, but I’m pretty sure I was never quite as motivated as you were. 🙂

  107. Very few innocent people made it to ALTO. I was there and it took me over 20 yrs to get all of my rights back. I’m very well educated, My wife & I live comfortably and we both have worked very hard to get where we are. There are things about my past she does not know about but to be honest I don’t think she would really care. for we are all human… To learn is to fail a few times. 🙂
    Being in ALTO was the worse experience of my life. I remember looking up and seeing that place for the first time. I can still remember how it felt when my stomach dropped. I bet I lost 30 Lbs my first few weeks of being there. All that aside I was placed there for a reason. I was with folks doing wrong and we got caught and in turn I got 10 yrs. (@ 17) I was released and placed on a lot of parole and probation.
    But the fact is “I” caused myself to be there. And I grew from being there not ending up on the streets, ending up dead, ending up homeless as an old man. More people should take it for what it is and learn from it. Grow from it. After living through something like that there are very few things that can hold you back.

  108. Funny… I was reading past post and saw a post I made last year.
    “January 17, 2015 at 11:36 pm”
    Even then I was still bitter over it… I think I’ve gotten past that.

  109. Douglas, I would expect (or at least hope) that Donald will be back around to read and respond to your comments sooner or later. He hasn’t been checking in on a daily basis, but more like weekly.

    Bitterness can hang on for a long time. I felt the grade I got for a college wrestling class I took in 1963 was unfair…and stayed bitter about it for close to 40 years. If a guy can be impacted by something that minor (and stupid, too, as I finally realized the coach/teacher who gave the grade was RIGHT), anyone who can “let go” of something like Alto deserves a salute of respect.

  110. Hi Douglas. I have to admit your posts brought back a lot memories. I didn’t hear the bitterness as much as I did the humility in your life. You took responsibity for your being at Alto just as I did. It was nobody’s fault but our own and I know I was not innocent. I think that is one of the major reasons tha you and I and others have made it. I understand the environment and conditions that you made it through. It was a few years before I let myself have feelings after surviving such a horrendous place and having seen some of the things that happened there. So many young men were violently raped. I remember seeing 50 inmates line up to rape this young boy who would not fight. The guards let it go on for about an hour before they came and took him to the cell block. I cried for a few minutes when I remembered, but this was the norm there. You are obviously a survivor and overcame this in your life. The truth is that I probably would have died had I not been sentenced to Alto (not that I would ever recommend that to anyone). I had a spiritual experience in the cell block before I went to dorm 11. Thank you for sharing. I know it helps me to hear your experince and your success in life as I am sure it helps others.


  111. I think it’s a great thing to have this site. Like I said before, I did about 4 yrs. in Alto. I got in a fight [shanked a MF] and was sent to the hole. The law says they can only keep you there for 14 days in a row. So, on day 14 I was returned to population,……………………………………for 24 hrs. then BACK in the hole for another 14. It was mind boggling what they got away with. Anyway, I’m glad to see the site up and running. Thankx Ghost32

  112. Donald: Good to see you checking back in. Your continuing participation is really giving this page a boost.
    Wayne: Thanks for your support for the page. Note: The “mind boggling” thing still goes on in a lot of ways in a lot of places. At a women’s prison (not in Georgia), a pen pal of ours told us a few years ago that she witnessed a murder about which nothing was ever done. Girl got jumped in the shower, seriously outgunned. All our friend could hear was her yelling, “Stop hitting me in my head!” As if that would make any attacker stop, but that’s what happened. They took the victim to the infirmary, but she never came back. Died in hospital.

  113. Hi Wayne. I read your post from last year. I was there a little earlier than you were (I was D-12381 with the state and 13539 at Alto) but it doesn’t sound like things had changed very much. No human being should be subjected to that kind of violence or be forced to live in that type of environment no matter what the crimes were. Thanks for sharing your experience. People need to know how things are and were. People who have never been in prison just don’t realize what happens. I believe that telling our stories helps to bring an awareness that most people just don’t have.

    And, thank you Ghost32 for helping make this possible.


  114. Donald, you are more than welcome. If I had the time and energy (which I have to admit I don’t), I’d add pages for several other prisons, at least those I’ve visited or know something about for one reason or another, such as in South Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, and California. But who knows? Maybe a few writers will spot this page and eventually launch like minded possibilities, eh?

  115. As I reflect on my incarceration at Alto, I could say many things about how bad it was…..and it was. On the other hand, going to Alto probably saved my life. Prior to Alto, I was a practicing member of the Church of Satan. My Satanic bible was taken from me when I was arrested. I could have easily have been one of those kids who shot up their school. I was evil and proud of it. Being in a maximum security one man cell on C block brought me to my knees 3 weeks after I was there. I was crying my eyes out sorry for what I had done when I had a life changing experience. From behind me I heard an audible voice tell me that my life was about loving people. Who knew that was what I needed to change me? Only God knew that. I still had to serve my time, but I have never been the same since. As bad as Alto was, this changed me forever! Since then I have made many good choices and many bad choices. But you know what, God has never left me. Thanks for letting me share this.

    Donald (1972-74)

  116. Donald, you are more than welcome. And even though I didn’t have nearly as hard a row to hoe in 1972-74 as you did in Alto (duh), I also had a life changing experience during that time. Wasn’t following Satan–at least not knowingly–but nonetheless had a lo-ong way to go. Just struck me as intriguing that you and I apparently had major pivot points at roughly the same time.

  117. my daughter is at Alto in the RSAT program, she said that she hears things, but afraid to mention it to anyone, her release date is Sept.1,2016 if no setbacks…She said that you can get setbacks even giving someone a high-five or making friends there…she is not allowed to talk to anyone in the GP or the other groups…I pray for all of those women who are there

  118. Wishing you and your daughter well, Debra. Thanks for commenting.

    I’m pretty sure the reason for not allowing RSAT enrollees to mingle with general population inmates is simple: The majority of all prisoners are there on drug related charges and could/would be considered potentially harmful influences on the individual trying to cut a new trail for herself. For our readers who may not know about RSAT, the acronym stands for Residential Substance Abuse Treatment. There’s a pretty good rundown of the programs goals and at least a few of the rules at the following link:

  119. I could tell you a lot about Lee Arrendale and Lee Arrendale state prison. I am from the area and still live here. I also worked at the prison as a correctional officer for a period of time.

  120. I’m sure you could tell us a bunch, Brandon. Thanks for commenting.

    Humorous (?) side note: The pen pal gal who originally inspired this post is no longer part of our lives. She was transferred elsewhere some time ago. Then in early February of 2016, her “new” Warden gave me a call…which was surprising; that simply does not happen. But the Warden had spotted money piling up in the inmate’s trust account. Turned out our friend, whom we’d known for 11 years as she plowed through a 20 year sentence, had been beautifully scamming us for the past 2 years. Never fibbed once for the first 9, but she is a “prison baby” who’d finally spent enough time surrounded by professional cons that she got, in our opinion, her PhD in Career Criminality. This is a sad thing–for her– because she was NOT “that girl” in the beginning. She’d been incarcerated since the age of 16. We met her when she was 25, and her Golden Heart shone through big time back then. By age 36, unfortunately, she’d absorbed the ambience, so to speak, and could no longer be trusted.

    But she left behind (with us) this Lee Arrendale page, one of the most active and helpful pages on my entire website, and for that my wife and I are grateful. Gotta be some good karma for her in there somewhere.

  121. i don’t know about a building c “annex”, but the c unit building/dorms are still there and still being used. there was an asbestos remediation done a few years ago and the problem was, ostensibly, taken care of.

    the “scared straight” program was still going on there, at least as of late 2014.

    p.s. nice site

  122. jp, I’d heard about the asbestos remediation but did not know Scared Straight was still happening at Arrendale (at least until late 2014). Thanks for the compliment on the site.

  123. I was there from 73 to 75 It was F FIGHT or WASH CLOTHES Shi on my D or blood on my knife, blacks were the worst you never walked alone if you were white, seen a few get really hurt they would get caught in between flights of stairs and get hurt bad. It was nice to have kitchen buddies, food, knives, coffee

  124. jp – glad to hear the c building is still around. would like to go and see it again some time.
    Andy – I was there 72-74 in the annex and then dorm 1. it was a rough place to be. glad you survived


  125. Andy, that’s one of the most concise summaries I’ve seen; thanks for commenting.

  126. I also got a GED and 3200 hrs in auto mechanics You made it what it was. Ole guard use to say HARD BUT ITS FAIR YOU HAD A GOOD HOME AND WOULDNT STAY THERE.

  127. Andy – i got my GED in 1973. i worked on the newspaper The Beacon

    Donald (72-74)

  128. We probably crossed paths. glad you made it. Was there a D3? I can not remember I know I was on the 3rd flight and always waited for a white boy to go up the stars with

  129. D3 would have been in the main building two floors above me. white boys had to hang together to survive. we were greatly outnumbered. just going to the store to get a few flip cakes and some bugler could be dangerous

  130. Ghost32 – I am sorry to hear about your experience. We never know the impact we have sometimes regardless of the way things turn out. I know you are blessed. Thank you for who you are.

    Donald (72-74)

  131. Thanks, Donald–although neither Pam nor I are upset about it at this point. For some months prior to discovering our pen pal’s perfidy, both my wife and I had been feeling the inner warnings more and more. PP (Pen Pal) had been getting pushier, not overwhelmingly so, but definitely more than had been her norm in earlier times, and if “magic happened” to remove her from our future, we weren’t going to complain a whole lot…and then the magic did happen.

    The real beauty of all that? Our “final” pen pal, who’s incarcerated in another southern state, began corresponding in December of 2014. The more she got to know us and vice versa, the brighter her little light shined. She’d been a lifetime habitual repeat offender, but pulled herself up by her own bootstraps–and as you know, nobody inside has any boots to begin with. It took her a while to get out of bad thinking habits, some of which resulted in her receiving a number of disciplinary citations and consequences up through July or so of 2015…but that was it. Not a single one since.

    She got all the way back up to the “best” classification available, and I took a trip in early April of 2016 to go visit her. We spent 4 hours on a Tuesday afternoon and another 4 on Wednesday, 8 hours in all. Very good visits. She’s sharp mentally and her attitude is right, so much so that she was given work release without even applying for it, within a few weeks of my visits. Having been around the block multiple times before, she knows all about the traps that can trip you up in work release, and she’s scrupulously avoiding those, just going to work (long hours), studying (even more courses the Parole Board tends to like, despite having already completed a bunch of those), and keeping her nose clean.

    When she’s done with everything she has to do–which at this point could take a couple more years–and is free to join our household, it will be an excellent fit. The gal who blew it? Not so much.

    As for Scammer Girl, the State of Georgia has been in touch with us, in part seeking to know what Pam and I would consider the “ideal resolution” of the situation, which involves the money still sitting in trust for SG. I told the investigator, in writing, that in our opinion, we’d like to see that money go toward a serious rehab program for our former pen pal, as it’s obvious she won’t make it on the outside–ever–unless she gets some serious mental readjustment. What the State will eventually decide, of course, we don’t know.

    There are no accidents, and all is as it should be. 😀

  132. I’ve posted here before, was at alto from the mid 90s until they made it a womens prison. Does anyone remember the stray cats? I actually got one of them to my dad while I was in there, there’s a good story behind that.

  133. Hi,

    I am intrigued and very interested in what everyone has to say about ALTO. I was there in 2011 for diagnostics and witnessed some horrifying moments. When I first arrived after being locked up in county for 45 days, I was thrilled. It had rolling hills and I could see the green grass. I was excited to be leaving the confines of a county jail and just to breathe the fresh air. It was a tough experience and my first and only time incarcerated. I saw things that I could never have imaged in my life. It isn’t like TV at all. I was to work in the Career Center and help in the reentry program at ALTO. However, I never got the chance. I was moved to a transitional center to complete my time which now I realized was tougher than being in prison especially when the location was in South Atlanta, GA. I think about my experiences often and am in hopes of writing a book. I took notes and wrote during my entire time there. I was housed in Main One and didn’t realized it had closed for asbestos. There is so much to tell and I hope that one day it will be told. I think about those girls often and hope that they find a way to start their lives over. There are no programs (that I know of) that help these young woman start their lives over. They don’t care. It is hard to start your life over. People look at your differently and you are now put into a different social status…felon status. I don’t care what anybody says it is hard. I am glad that many of you had done well and I encourage you to find your peace with this situation if possible. Even after 3 years I still find it hard to function in society. Each year it becomes easier, but I have setbacks. I cannot stand loud noises, yelling, any type of screaming and if there is any anger from anywhere… I run and hide. It was a shock to my system. I have found meditating and trying to maintain peace within myself and around the people I associate with has helped tremendously. Good luck to all and I hope this website continues.

  134. Hi Vickie, and thanks for commenting. It’s really good to see a former female inmate joining the conversation. As far as I’ve ever been able to tell (keeping in mind that I’m the website guy but have not been incarcerated), you’re absolutely right on all counts. That is, that (a) there are no real programs to help rehabilitate anybody, except for correspondence courses like Life Skills that come from outside and have to be paid for, (b) you bet it’s hard to start your life over, and (c) setbacks and reacting to loud noises, etc, are more common than not.

    This web page should continue for some time yet. Years, hopefully decades, allowing of course for the fact that the future cannot always be predicted. But I have no plans to shut it down in the foreseeable future. So say I, and it’s my site. 🙂

  135. Hi Vickie,

    I was very moved by your comments. It reminds me of Alto during the 70’s. I served two years there before paroling to a transitional pre release drug treatment program. I was pardoned and have not been in trouble again, yet after 40 years, i still carry that inner shame of being a felon. The intensity has lessened over the years. I always worry about how i”m going to be judged. I hope you do write about your experiences. My good friend just wrote a book including his experience at Alto. It really seems to be helping a lot of people.

    Donald 72-74

  136. Hi there!

    I realize that this is a couple years old now, but I work at Arrendale and can confirm that there are at least six rehabilitation programs including re-entry, cosmetology, automotives, computer science, animal care and handling, and woodwork. Most of these programs not only offer them a job and skills that the inmates may be able to use in the outside, but a lot of them also get technical certificates and degrees through these programs as well. There is also a GED program for anyone interested.

  137. Thanks, Katie. Appreciate your input.

    All of the rehab programs you mention (with the exception of re-entry) are work skills related–and those are essential, but it seems to me that it usually takes a lot more than that for any individual with a lifetime of “Stinking Thinking” to get his or her head on straight. The “lacking” forms of help I was considering: Basically, personal study of one’s own psyche, how society really works, the effects of negative versus positive attitudes, stuff like that. Having a bit of training in computer science is a great thing, but it’s not enough if you’re a person who still believes (just for example) that the entire world is “out to get you” or that you’re a “worthless human being,” etc.

    Or that “crime pays,” for that matter.

  138. I was there april – may 2016. I was there for diagnostics. Then I was shipped to Whitworth slave driving facility. But I just wanted to comment about the cats at Alto. From what I saw, there are 2. One black and one Russian Blue.

  139. Thanks, DH. Good to hear the kitty update. (My wife and are both “cat people,” so feline info is always of interest.) If you happen to check back here later, I wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more about the “Whitworth slave driving facility.” We have a pen pal friend in another state who recently experienced one of those, low wages, hard labor, extreme hours, and NO medical care whatsoever. She ended up getting transferred back to her original facility, and it’s a good thing she did; that was several weeks ago and she’s still having physical problems. She didn’t quit, though; the authorities just (apparently) decided she was getting too “cripped up” to be a useful, no-problem slave, and booted her.

  140. kitty # was down to 1 when i left in late 2014. it was the “library cat”. she was fixed (spayed) and live on the covered “porch” of the library. but she snuck in whenever she could, as the library is one of the few places that is climate controlled (heat in winter, a/c in summer). she was, smartly, very selective of whom she allowed to touch her. some inmates were scared of cats; others would kick at a cat when the chance. though most were quite protective of her. she was, at least in my mind, a tactile link to the “free world”.

    when the dog program shifted to arrendale, after metro – which had previously had the dog program – closed down, you could see and pet (if their inmate handlers allowed it) the dogs as well. and if you were lucky enough to be housed in the dorm which housed the handlers, and also their dogs, (as i was for a brief period), you got to see the litters of puppies born to the dogs who were pregnant when they were brought into the program. that was a heart-warming thing and, another link to the “free world”. at least for me.

  141. Thanks, jp. Dog programs do a lot of good, from everything I’ve heard. A friend of ours who is incarcerated in another state had the great good fortune to be part of the P.A.W.S. program. For those inmates who got to work with the pups, the benefits were really noticeable. Even from outside at “correspondence distance,” we could easily see the improvement in our friend’s spirits, emotional balance, and even physical health while she was working with the dogs.

  142. I’m amazed by how the Toe has changed. I grew up there. It was a nasty place, but probably the best environment for me being hard headed at that time. Now it seems like an actual Rehabilitation camp. I was there when they tore the annex down, I was 18 when I got there and I pulled 10 years. It was a world unto itself. Now it seems like it is a relatively safe place

  143. Compared to when you were there (and judging by other comments), I’m sure it is far safer than it used to be. As compared to a former pen pal’s story from a Nevada women’s prison, where she survived but one evening heard a friend yelling, “Stop hitting me in my head!” as the girl was jumped in the shower by at least four other women. Those were her last known words; she did not survive.

  144. Hi, really happy to find this website, my wife is there since july 11 2016, i received one letter from her saying they are not fed on friday and weekends, it’s hot and tough, i imagine she’s in diagnostics, can somebody tell a little about this diagnostics process, may God help all those who are in trying times, make these inmates better persons, get them out and give them a better life amen

  145. First, I have to say, sorry to hear about your wife being there. That’s tough on her without a doubt, but it can’t be easy for you, either.

    The young lady who originally inspired this post could certainly have given me the details about diagnostics–I remember her mentioning it, at least in passing, a time or two–but (a) she’s no longer at that facility, and (b) we no longer have contact with her. She was shipped out to another facility some time back, and then we found out (last February) that she’d been scamming us a bit, so we terminated the pen pal relationship.

    I do remember that part about them not getting fed on the weekends, though. Had forgotten about that.

    The following is from a Wikipedia explanation about diagnostics in the Georgia state prison system:

    “…While at GDCP, inmates are either in the process of being classified and tested, or they are assigned as a “permanent.” Those inmates who are ‘permanents’ will serve their entire sentence at the GDCP, while the remainder of inmates will be tested and then moved to other prisons based on their classifications. Based on published research statistics by the Georgia Department of Corrections,[5] inmates who are being diagnosed and classified undergo a battery of tests and diagnostic questionnaires. Tests and diagnostic notations include: the culture fair IQ test; Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) (reading, math, and spelling); scope of substance abuse (summary & detailed report); latest mental health treatment; PULHESDWIT medical scale; criminality, alcoholism, and/or drug abuse in immediate family; one or both parents absent during childhood; manipulative or assaultive tendency diagnostics; and criminal history report with prior incarcerations and a full account of all previous and current offenses.”

  146. unless it has changed in the last 1 to 2 years, it is only lunch that they don’t get on weekends.

  147. Thank you, yes you right Jp, i find out when i read again her letter that its only lunch that they dont get on weekends.
    Ghost, thank you , truly its not easy at all, she was supposed to do 3 months in gwinnet county, she spent there 2 and they sent her tp arrendale for a month, hard but if we think about those who are there for years we forget our pain, prayers to everybody

  148. sorry to quote a comment that appears to be inadvertently posted, but

    re: “Ghost, thank you , truly its not easy at all, she was supposed to do 3 months in gwinnet county, she spent there 2 and they sent her tp arrendale for a month, hard but if we think about those who are there for years we forget our pain, prayers to everybody”

    those who are there for years, and those who are there forever. if your loved one is not one of those, consider her lucky and tell her to do her time clean and get the hell out.

  149. JP: Thanks; your remark jogged my memory, and yes, as Saura discovered, it’s “only” lunch they don’t get on weekends. (Which wouldn’t shake me up much, but I get to decide when I want to skip meals, and that makes all the difference.

    The comment you quoted was not “inadvertently” posted; Saura was responding to something I’d said here in conversation. But yes, the “short timers” there have a better shot at getting out clean than others.

    Saura: Good point. For most of us, no matter what our personal miseries may be in this world, it doesn’t take much looking around to find someone else in far worse shape.

  150. Looking for info on a “lewis” that worked at the prison around 1974, 1975, 1976. He lived close to the prison, perhaps in houses provided by prison?
    He had a teenage daughter named Karen Lewis. Any information, like first name, etc., would be appreciated.

  151. I used to work at the prison. Wow it was a crazy place. The warden Ms. Kennedy well she was the deputy warden then is truly a very evil woman!!!!!

  152. Christopher and Brandon: Thanks for commenting. I believe I saw something about Kennedy online once…and got the same impression of her that Brandon obviously learned from experience.

  153. Just wanted to leave a comment about alto . my husband and his twin brother both served time in alto in the late 70s and early 80s . his name is Lonnie and mine is dawn . now my daughter is there at Lee arrendale sp. Dead man’s curve is where my husband was grabbed and shaken down by other inmates and they took his shoes and everything else he had , well except for the one thing they were searching for and they didn’t get it because he had that in his stomach . . I know lots of stories about that prison and it’s true about the TB because my husband got it while at also and had to take a pill for a couple of years .. The plastic spoons story is very true . as I was reading that guys comment my husband had chills all over him . my daughter says this prison has crappy employees and they are very lazy ! I will share more history on alto later . my kids biological father was there from 1986 to 1991 . I have heard stories all my life about alto . my mom’s boyfriend was in also in alto in the 60s . I agree with you ghost about the warden , she’s very creepy and not professional at all . anyone who’s in that position and more than obviously doesn’t own an iron for her clothes or knows the way to the dry cleaners is not on my list of superiors I’d like to rub elbows with . or be the boss of my daughter who’s about to turn 21 if I might add . the lady who wrote earlier about her daughter being on first offender , my daughter is too and you can pull my daughter’s info up . by the way I’m sure she can too about her daughter, they lie !!

  154. Thanks for commenting, Dawn–and yes, they most certainly do lie. Not just in Alto, but in prisons in general. We have a friend in another state, in a prison that has at times made the “Ten Worst Women’s Prisons in America” list. She’s currently battling against a cover-up by staff who didn’t like the fact that when she followed the rules to her best ability, she also (without realizing the potential consequences until too late) exposed some really unprofessional, incompetent behavior by certain employees.

    Looking forward to Alto history whenever you find time to post it; thanks for that in advance. And also thanks for agreeing with my assessment of the Warden. You made my day!

  155. There was a gentleman who wanted information about diagnostics. First of all this was at ALTO. I was there in July 2011 and it was hot. They do not have air conditioning. There are fans to cool off the areas but they don’t help. You have approx. 6 to 8 women per cut (which is a unit) with one big fan. They did not keep us busy at all. I saw a lot of fighting going on during that time. We were not even allowed a book. During that time you are given tests (i.e. bloodwork, mental evaluation, IQ or some type of intelligence test…). So you would get a slip in the morning stating where you would go that day if anywhere; and go to your appointments. You supposedly are only suppose to last 4 to 6 weeks in diagnostics and then shipped out someplace else to serve your time. I remained at ALTO. The testing was ridiculous. When I was there they had a few programs but not many to help others for reentry. Once you finish diagnostics you are then put into general population where you have a job to do such as kitchen work, working on the horse farm (if they still have that), or another area. They do have GED classes to help those finish high school. Also, we did marching in the dead of the heat. I saw several girls pass out during this heat. The guards at ALTO, in my opinion are very rude. But I think they have to be to control or try to control that many women. But to sit around all day and do nothing is a breeding ground for trouble.

    The best thing I can say to the people who have families there is to stay in touch with them is to make sure they have money so they can buy stamps, envelopes and writing pads. That kept me sane. AND write to them. The best part is receiving a letter from somebody who cares and loves you. That can keep you partly sane.

  156. Thanks for the informative comment. I hadn’t heard about the horse farm; be interesting to know if it’s still part of the deal. And yes, absolutely, mail call can definitely help with the sanity situation. That was true even during my time in the Army, which was obviously a lot better set of circumstances and conditions than a facility like Alto.

  157. The horse farm is not still there. I have been a contracted employee at Arrendale since August of 2015.

    There are still two cats there as well.

  158. Katie, there was a question for you from Celeste Thompson that must have been deleted as spam here…but thankfully a copy reached my email, so I’ll post it for her:

    Katie, is it as hot , inside, with no air conditioning in the summer as some say? Is the current Warden really a witch? Some day she is especially attentive to “lifers.” My lifer is hoping to get transferred there, closer to me. Is it hard to get into the dog program if you are a lifer? Thanks for any info. Cee

  159. Thanks Ghost32.

    Cece, I will definitely say that it does get hot during the summer but having worked there through two summers, it’s nothing super unbearable. Yes, they don’t have air conditioning but there is typically a fan (if not more than one) in each room. And yes, the warden really is a witch and she only cares about herself and the Deputy Warden. I could go on about her but I’m going to stick with “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I’m not sure about her paying special attention to lifers. I try to steer clear of her as much as I possibly can. The guide dog program has closed, but the rescue dog program is still open and there are several lifers in the program. There are limitations/restrictions on who can be in the program, but I am not 100% sure of those. It’s a very competitive program so it would behoove whomever you are referring to to consistently be on their best behavior and not slack off. I hope this answers everything!

  160. i would like to know if anyone remembers Terry Simmons. He was 22 and at GII (ALTO) on July 31, 1979 when he was killed by a guard. He was my uncle and I would like to know details from those who knew him.

  161. Katie, thanks for responding to Cece’s question.
    Bobby…ouch. I had a second cousin who was incarcerated (not in Georgia) for a lengthy term, got out, counseled other inmates on addiction, got cancer, and died pretty young…but at least he wasn’t killed by a guard. Let’s hope someone among our readership does turn up who knew your uncle TERRY SIMMONS and can give you some details.

  162. Thank you. I was only 11. My grandmother was told a story about what happened but I figured those with him might be able to confirm it or tell us the truth.

  163. I would love to know where this Katie really works… I was just released on the 14th. There is nothing positive about that place. The horse farm is there and also the pig farm as I worked them both. There are 3 ppl on the horse farm detail and any where from 10 to 15 sent to the pig farm. The cosmetology just got up and going. I was housed in Main 1 in the SIP program( suppose to be a fast tract program) from Apr.2016 to Aug 2016. The program is just a way for the prison to get money. After completing SIP I was housed in C4 which is suppose to be for outside detail working inmates but seems to be where everyone from lock down got placed also. C4 is called the privleged dorm. We usually got fed last which meant very little food, waited till 9-10 pm to get meds, store on Friday which meant whatever was left over. Very seldom let out on weekends. Ms Kennedy is still an evil witch. The officers treat inmates like animal. Im am so glad to be out of that place.

  164. “I would love to know where this Katie really works… ” ——

    you and me both, christine.

  165. I was there 1987-1992 spend my time in dorm 13, remember Rambo got killed in dorm 10 or 11, I remember going in that dorm with a boy name fat from Miami as soon as we went through that door in dorm 13 we were ready to fight, been a white Cuban the officers there told I made history I was in slots of fights ( was called Cuban Vic by those who new me there.

  166. That dorm was ruled by down south crew, Miami boys and all the city’s south of Atlanta down to Florida because back then they were slots of Florida boys that ran the drug sales.

  167. vic and o: Appreciate you guys checking in. As you can see, there’ve been quite a few comments on this page, but your input added a new dimension. Thanks.

  168. Hi to everyone that doesn’t believe I really worked there! You guys are a hoot. I used to run the guide dog program, work with the rescue program now and am changing positions to the rec director March 1st. But thanks so much for your skepticism!

  169. That was pretty specific, Katie; you didn’t leave your skeptics much wiggle room! 😀


  171. Thanks for commenting, Carl. Reckon you had to be Quick Carl to survive, eh?

    I guess the guard that got fired should have held the guys at gunpoint and called for backup transport? Not trying to judge here, but if it were me, I do believe I’d prefer riding in the trunk over getting shot in the legs, beat to death, or drowned in paint thinner.

    Guards being “as bad if not worse” than inmates…that’s happened, and still happens, in a lot of places, though not necessarily as severely so as you survivors describe the 1970’s Alto.

  172. I’m more interested in anyone who was there prior to it becoming a womens prison, 96-on.

  173. I recall an incident where “the toothless wonder” (kazanski or something) and a compatriot tried to hijack a foodservice truck from a unit from laundry. Anyone else?

  174. Also, does anyone recall when about 99, 2000 in F building they hijacked the building and attacked the officers? They tied the does shut, F-control was literally crying for help.


  176. My daughter is in Alto now. She likes it better than Pulaski. She said the food is horrible but they sometimes get chicken on the bone . Myself and family help send her food and clothing and money for also medical needs and doctor she has to pay part of doctor visits has been there over a third of her sentence as required and done all classes and no mark ups, so why don’t they follow their own rules and release her?

  177. contrary to what a lot of people believe, early release is not a “rule”.

  178. I was at Alto from 65-68. I was 16 going in, 19 getting out. I fought and I survived. I got my GED, played quarterback on the football team, made basketball and baseball teams and sports writer for the Beacon (prison newspaper). Because I played sports all year round I had it good compared to a lot of the other guys. I was sent there by God to learn a few things about life.
    Years later I became a Christian and presently I write and send a “Christians In Recovery” newsletter to thousands of inmates. I understand and relate to inmates because of my time behind the wall at Alto.

  179. Y’all have been handling these comments pretty well for a while without me, but I do want to say: Mike Premo, good for you.

    Also, to anonymous: I’m not suggesting your daughter is being anything but honest with you…however, my wife and I did get nailed for a bit of money by our inmate pen pal who told us that very same thing (that she had to pay for some of her medical visits). After several years of this, the Warden (at Pulaski, not Alto, as our pen pal was at Pulaski at the time) actually called me because the inmate’s trust account looked like it was building up a nest egg. The girl had been lying about having to pay for medical and stashing the coin for when she got out. Which I don’t believe she would have done early in our relationship, but she went in at age 16–a “prison baby”–and by the time she was about 17 years into her 20 year sentence, she’d received the equivalent of a PhD in criminal behavior from being surrounded by a sea of career professionals.

    Of course, it’s always possible the state rules have changed since then. That was a little more than two years ago.

  180. this is my knowledge of the state of medical charges as of 2 1/2 years ago:
    there is a $5 charge for medical visits that the inmate requests. there are some medicines that inmates are charged for. (chronic care visits are scheduled on a regular, recurring basis and are free, as are medications given for chronic care conditions.) there is a $5 charge for dental visits. if you break or lose your state- issued eye glasses, it’s $20 to replace them. mental health appointments and medication are free.

  181. Mike Premo, that is awesome for you! I have copies of The Beacon pretty sure from ’65. My granddaddy was warden of Alto at that time. He brought the school there and the football team. He was distressed later when they stopped the football there.

  182. J Peterson: Thanks for posting the medical charge details. They sound very familiar (except for the eye glasses, as our pen pal never wore glasses). When we got scammed, it was by the inmate telling us she had cancer and soliciting funds from us to cover imaginary charges for treatments she never received or needed in the first place.

  183. how very duplicitous. sad but true that some people in prison will run scams on those on the outside who are kind and caring enough to want to help them in the first place. prison medical care leaves a lot to be desired, but if someone had cancer and was actually getting treatments for it, those treatments would be covered, to the best of my knowledge.

  184. That’s my understanding as well–now. On the other hand (looking on the bright side), it was really remarkable to have the Warden call us because she was concerned for us. The Warden and I worked together after that; she even had our little scamming friend brought to her office and forced her to ‘fess up to me right on the phone in front of her. It’s even possible the whole experience did the inmate some good. She finished her 20 year sentence a bit more than a year after that, and as far as we heard, was actually surviving pretty well on the outside–in part from the wake-up call of having our support permanently jerked and being forced to face her own consequences. My wife had phone contact with her aunt (a great person) until a few months ago.

  185. GDC inmates do have to pay a copay for access to medical care. There are wavers for the indigent. Being classified as indigent requires a person to go for some period of time without having money on their books. I believe period is several months. Yes, cancer treatment is covered by the state, but I have yet to see published survival rates.
    I’m sure if you talk with medical at Arrendale that they can provide information on treatments, medical devices or medications are not covered by the state. In the case of prescription eye glasses it’s best for inmates to have their loved ones purchase them through companies like Zenni and shipped direct to the prison. Again medical at Arrendale can help.
    As regards to early release, unless dictated by statue (7 Deadly Sins Law, etc), felony offenses are parole eligibile at 1/3 of the sentence. I believe early release would be a release before the parole eligibility date PED, which is possible it statue allows and the parole board approves. In theory the parole board reviews all cases at PED and assigns a tenitive parole month, TPM, based on guidelines that take into account the severity of the crime, the inmate’s record in prison, and the risk to reoffend. A number of factors can cause delays in the assignment of TPMs or lead to their change. If you have a loved one in the system you know.

  186. actually, many who have a loved one in the system DO NOT know. some are simply unaware of how to go about finding info. for some, it is a matter of their first time encountering the (to put it nicely) nuances and vageries of the correctional system. others simply don’t have the resources available to them to find and/or utilize said information.
    even those like ghost32, who appears to me to be quite savvy, can be misled or taken in by someone trying to “run game”.

  187. sorry jp, I did not intend for my post, specially the last sentence to be taken that way. I also made a mistake, the 1/3 serve requirement applies to trafficking and few other offenses.

  188. no worries, chris. i got what you meant. i just find that sometimes even people IN the system are unaware of how things really work, including inmates and counselors, etc. and trying to find real answers can be like chasing the wind.
    if i came off in a reprimanding tone, my apologies.

  189. I just got out yesterday from the rsat program and it is a living night mare

  190. A complete history of Arrendale going back to the TB wards would make for a very interesting book, but as long as it’s a operating prison it might require open records requests to access to a good portion of the State’s archival records. As mentioned before in the comments, there are ghost stories and a fair amount of mythology about the place and the graveyard across the road. I tell my good friend that I’m visiting the mythical land of Arrendale each time I go for a visit.

    The National Geographic Hard Time series provided some interesting views into the prison, but in the end it felt more like voyeuristic entertainment to me. I read the that the Victorians liked to tour British workhouses and prisons. I wonder if we are any better than them at times.

    I once talked with my loved one inside about what happened to some of the characters in the Hard Times episode. Brandi Tenille Cook “Tea” ended up in a lot of trouble after the “World Without Men” episode aired. I don’t know how many DR’s or how long she spend in the hole, but she ended up getting a lot flak from staff and inmates. The steel wool battery cigarette ignitor tutorial was referenced as one of the many things she was derided and made fun for doing. “Tea” ended up going back to prison on cocaine possession charges among other things after finishing her time in Arrendale. This last sentence she did at Pulaski, and she was released in March 2014. I hope she is ok, a lot of people are dying these days of drug overdoses.

    Kimberly Antrinette Taylor is back at Arrendale as of January of 2017 on a 1st degree forgery charge. I forgot her current nickname that my LO told me, and I didn’t ask if she is still the same character as in Hard Time. One has to hope that someone previously charged with Mutiny in a Penal Institution would one day wake up and “get it.” She is not getting any younger. I looked her up in the Georgia Parole Board TPM database and it looks like she is going to serve out in July 2018.

    Rose Richardson is still serving her sentence for voluntary manslaughter at Pulaski, but she has a tentative parole month (TPM) of June 2019.

    Anjail Durriyyah Muhammad was an inmate at Metro covered in a previous episode of Hard Time. She is now at Arrendale serving her Life W/O parole and my LO crosses paths with her frequently because they live in the same dorm. I have learned a lot more about her that has humanized her, but given her crime I would still be uncomfortable sitting down to next to her. I don’t know if she has changed since Metro, but she was no doubt playing a character for the cameras.

    For me Yolandia Diamond’s story was the only redeeming part of the “World Without Men” episode. Yolandia was released in November 2014 and she is currently on parole. I don’t know if she will ever get off parole, but you can tell by her picture on the PB website that she is happy to be home.

  191. many inmates were less than thrilled with the national geographic documentary and felt as though it suggested that all inmates were, at the very least. “gay for the stay”.

  192. One very positive thing about Arrendale is Chaplain McNeese’s Children Center. It’s a pretty special program that lets mothers spend one Saturday a month with their kids. The kids get to say with their moms all day and they eat lunch together. There are all kinds of cool activities with the kids and if the weather is good they can play outside. The program also includes time each week for the mothers where they learn how to better be there for their kids.
    In a related note, Chaplain Jett was also a great man, and his passing to cancer this year was pretty sad.

  193. I’ve been there, it’s not as bad as pulaski, more lax. Guards aren’t as bad. It’s definitely creepy though. I KNOW it’s haunted. I encountered at least 3 ghosts myself, and heard graphic stories of many more

  194. Chris and JP: Thanks for the follow up comments relating to Hard Times. I happened to catch that program and appreciate the further insights and updates.

  195. My husband was there in the late 80s when he was just 18. He spent almost five years there. He still has nightmares of what happened to him and what he felt like he had to do to survive. He is a good person and an inspiration to me. He got out, went to college, and has worked hard to lead life forward. He is successful in his field as an amazing chef.
    We finally moved forward to getting him a pardon. His case is currently in the eighth month and we are waiting to hear from the pardons and parole board. Has anyone received a pardon from time there in the 80s? I realize it is a case by case. He feels that what he did in Alto was far worse that what he did to get there and if that would cause the pardon to be denied. Considering the members of the current pardons and parole board, would they consider the time and the extreme circumstances of Alto at the time? It is supposed to take six to nine months to hear from them so we are anxiously waiting.
    Though the nightmares haven’t stopped, why should the rest of our life be put on hold. He made a stupid mistake, paid generously for it. I share the same thoughts as Ms. Couch’s grandfather, that these were just boys that for whatever the reason should have been in a rehabilitation environment. Instead, so many non violent young men had to learn to protect their life with whatever means necessary.
    His case and so many cases like this sicken me that it started with DAs or ADAs wanting to make a name for themselves and use scare tactics with these young men. They may have thought that they were doing their jobs, but was it the best job they could do? I don’t understand that at that time Alto was the only option. The court system had to know the situation there. For all the men that went there and endured much greater hell than anyone should, stay strong and live life with continued grace and wisdom.
    I would appreciate any answers to my questions. Your time is appreciated.

  196. Hello guys,
    first of all I’m from Germany and my English isn’t that good, so excuse my broken English.
    I’m glad I found this website.
    I have a pen pal in this facility. And my question to you guys is: I want to surprise her with a package with german sweets. Can I also send her some shoes (Sneakers), shorts and such stuff? I’m looking forward to your response.

  197. sorry but no you can’t. most of those items aren’t allowed at the prison. you can get her some sneakers but they have to be ordered from the prison-approved vender. the styles are limited. and you can’t sent her anything unless you are on her approved vistation list.

  198. Hi jp,
    thank you for your quick response. The rules seems to be very strict.

  199. Hi FreshPrince,
    Yeah very strict. The current supplier for quarterly food and property orders is Union Supply Direct. If you google Georgia inmate packages their sit will come up. To order a quarterly package for her you have be on her approved visiter list.The same rule applies to sending money.

    You can surprise her with a magazine or newspaper subscription, but be careful with books. Books have to be preapproved by her consular. Also make sure books are sent direct through a company like Amazon or the publisher and that the order comes with a receipt with your name on it.

  200. Hi FreshPrince,
    I don’t know if you already send your pen pal postcards from Europe, but that is a very simple, easy surprise that will brighten her day.

  201. Hi Chris,
    I send her first a handwritten letter with pictures of my city (Nuremberg). But now I have a jpay-account where I can send her e-mails and digital pictures.
    A couple weeks ago I ordered her some books from amazon which she approved by her counselor.
    And now I wanted to send her some special german sweets.
    But thank you very much for your response

  202. Hi Chris,
    I have a couple of questions for you. I hope you can answer it ;P
    1. is it difficult to get on her visitor list? (specially when I live in Germany)
    2. does she has to apply to get me on her visitor list or do I have to do it?

    By the way, I found a way to bypass the rule 😉
    I could send the package to her mom and she could send it to her.
    That would work right???

  203. Hi FreshPrince
    It’s very difficult to send anything other than postcards and letters directly to an inmate. Special cases would have go through the warden of security, and the things you are trying to send would not qualify. Things like prescription eye glasses would qualify.
    Her mom can pick up things your pen pal no longer needs or no longer has space for in her locker, but she can not send her your package.

    Regarding the approved visitor list. You living in Germany will slow the process down, but it is still possible. Your pen pal has to start the process of getting you approved as a Significant Relationship Visitor. Google that term along with “Georgia inmate” and you should find Georgia Department of Corrections information on the process. Online forums like PrisonTalk have people who can help with visitation application information and if you run into any problems. You will have to patient and be willing to deal with a possible initial rejection. There is a new Warden and I’m told he is fair. One last thing her visitor list can only be updated in May and November, So you have time to figure things out.

  204. Fresh Prince:

    I was on the road and couldn’t monitor this page for a while, so I’m very glad to see that Chris helped you out. (Thanks, Chris.)

  205. @Jane
    I’m not sure what the Pardon process is like but I did get a Expungement and Sealing by going to the local court house and talking with the DA & Judge.
    They signed off on it fairly quickly but still took about a year for it to take effect with GCIC, NCIC, & ATF. I was in alto late 80’s finished my paper time around 1993 and got Expunged in 2007 taking effect in 2008.

  206. I was there from 2000 until it got shut down on 2004 i was a juvenil
    Am lil julio with the scar on my face Ive all that weed in c-unit
    And it was hell but nothing ever happent to me only i got into a tons of fights after whille i got my respects and i used to like it been there now am out and AM a succesfull person

    Ps: all the people that got rape and was turn gay was beacouse they were sweet or just was messing with the gay people and more reason why i always used to tell them stay away from this or that or dont accept anything from no body but they never listend… i kow lil homealone & Glover, butler had 10 Years sentence but he commite the murda on 04 and got life its a trip!!!
    Its my expirience i like to share hope i dont disrespect no1

  207. MIKE PREMO, Reckon that whoopin I gave you in the Golden Gloves must have knocked some sense in that head of yours.Sounds like you’ve turned out to be the man I knew you could be.When I saw your post I was delighted to find you still around. I’ve had more than a few laughs remembering humorous moments we shared in spite of our circumstances. Yes we all have had our nightmares ,( I slept with one eye open for the first eighteen years after being released in 1965) but strange as it may sound i’m a better man having experienced Alto during those days. I’m now happily married(51 yrs.) four children, five grandchildren,four great grandchildren. Like you I’m also a christian, I’m preaching when they let me. ” God Bless You Mike “

  208. I was there in 1985 when the guard smuggled the guns in. I took college classes in the evenings after getting off work in the ID room. That night on the way back to the dorm I saw a guard running through the yard with a shotgun. I’d never seen a guard with a gun inside the fence. He was running towards the Block (you can see inside the block in the movie My Cousin Vinnie) I ran back to the dorm knowing something bad was happening. The next morning the parking lot was full of news crews. Our boss man told us the story. It’s just like Chad said. The story went that the inmates girlfriend had sex with the guard in exchange for bringing in some “free world food”. Once the food came in it had 2/25 caliber pistols and 100 rounds in a canned ham. They shot the guard and 2 inmates but the guard in the control room hunkered down in a bathroom where they couldn’t get a shot at him. The warden called into the block and told the inmates that he was coming in and there would be only 2 scenarios about to happen. 1. He would come in and they would surrender to him. 2. He would come in and they fire on him and the guards would come in and kill them. They surrendered. I was told the responsible inmate had previously made training tapes to help train the guards to recognize when they were being “worked” and that it wasn’t his first gun inside a prison offense.

    The some of the guards really enjoyed their jobs. One male guard got fired for letting 2 inmates have sex with him after he opened the bars for chow. Guards ran gambling with outside bookies too. We all had our ways of making ends meet and staying out of “double trouble” I’m glad I worked in the ID room. I’m sure I would’ve had a much rougher road without that job. There’s a ton of stories.

    A bunch of us grew up together in the YDC system RYDC, Augusta and Milledgeville, then to Alto. I never got locked up again after that. They were right when they said you don’t want to go to Alto. It was enough. I didn’t want to grow old in that life. I wonder about the guys that I knew with 2 life terms +20 years. It seems like it was forever ago, but if they’re alive I guess they’re still locked up. God bless’em. I work in a treatment center now. Weirdly enough my past has made me somewhat of an asset.

  209. Thanks for this one, Mitch. You hit the nail on the head: For any of us, inside or out in the world, it’s usually our past that has made us somewhat of an asset…for those of us that become assets, anyway.

  210. Hi my name is Tony chapman ef222179 laundry bag #1216 ,i was in alto from 1987 until 1991 I was Sent there at 17 .I was there when name was changed in 1987 or88 Lee arndale was a local from what we were told. Being an abused kid that grew up in the Foster system from 9 to 17 and sent to the roughest thing Georgia have really wasn’t fair to me considering I ended up spending after that a total of 15 years in prison thank God I was able to find my way but it was a no credit to Alto a footnote my brother just committed suicide and he was a lieutenant at Hayes prison

  211. Sorry to hear about your brother, Tony, but good on you for finding your way, and thanks for commenting. Hang in there. My wife’s kid sister committed suicide at the age of 31.

  212. Anybody that was there from 1987 until 1991 I was 17 and would love to hear others that found their way. Turns out that 88% of the children that grow up in group homes end up in prison or institutions so I was Olin state homes from 9 to 17 and prison at 17.sad thing is numbers are the same than as never his away abuse it always bothers you and I believe I have post traumatic stress disorer. Givfe me a call if you made it who knows maybe putting our minds together we can help change things for better.704 975 9924 God bless you all.bright side is we got all our bad days out the way as young men so everyday is a great day for me as I hope it is for you.I was there in call black when My Cousin Vinny was filmed

  213. Tony, my 2nd wife and I ran a couple of different group homes over the years as live-in houseparents in South Dakota and Wyoming, but I never knew that 88% statistic. Thanks for posting.

    Also, I called up the Edit page and put your phone number in bold type for you, just on the chance it might be easier for one of your fellow “graduates” from Alto to notice.

  214. My sister is currently in Arrendale on drug charges. She’s been in for nearly a month now, and she doesn’t seem to be having any problems with any other inmates. Our only problem is that somehow they’ve got her account as owing the prison 1.2 million dollars, wrongfully. I’m not sure how this happened, but when we try to put money in there for her it goes into that balance. She’s without commerce and stamps to send letters and we have no way of getting them to her without that problem being resolved. I talked to her on the phone yesterday and she told me her cell mate is in for decapitating her boyfriend and driving around with his head in her lap. It makes what my sister did seem mild, as she only hurt herself. Our county has really high charges for drugs, especially meth. My sister got 20 years for “distributing meth” (which she wasn’t doing, she definitely was doing the drug heavily but she maintains that she wasn’t selling it but that her POS boyfriend was selling it, lied about it, and he only got four months in the county jail) but she told me that she could get out as early as 18 months if she does all the classes and things she’s supposed to do. I never knew that having a family member in prison would be so stressful. I hope and pray that the place she’s in won’t leave her more damaged than she was when she went in. I’ve never been in any trouble in my life, so I’ve been searching the internet for any information about Arrendale that exists. I guess I’m looking for something to calm my nerves about her being there. Anyway, thanks for this article and all the comments. Very interesting and definitely some things I’m going to mention to her, such as the child care program.

  215. Madi, you’re certainly welcome. Glad to see the article (and especially the many comments by readers who know, or knew, the system well) is of some use to you. The 1.2 (wrongful) million “owed” is pretty wild; I suspect that getting that resolved may be a matter of reaching the right person…but the challenge will be finding out who that person might be and how to contact him (or her). Most rank and file prison staff, up to and possibly including the Warden, are likely to say, “Hey, that’s not MY problem.” Although there’s little doubt the Warden could trigger an investigation into the situation IF so inclined.

    A good lawyer could likely get that squared away fairly effectively, but of course those don’t come cheap either (although cheaper than a million bucks plus, for sure).

    May the blessings be.


  217. Not really necessary to yell, Keith, but I reckon the power of those memories wouldn’t let you do it any other way. Thanks for posting.

  218. U know why all do IQ test at prison captain gunman looking for the angel but I
    Just said I was gouty to meet him failed it he’s a virgin

  219. Not sure I totally understand your comment, Regina–the word “gouty” puzzles me–but then I don’t claim to speak the language fluently. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  220. Not sure if you have found any info on Lee Arrendale, but I just did. You can Google William Lee Arrendale, FIND A GRAVE, Clarkesville Cemetery. He was born 19 Apr 1924 and died 9 Mar 1990 in a plane crash with his wife Johnnie Dixon Arrendale. There is a note left by someone who knew him. He loved politics, but never ran for office. Was a Warden at the prison. Interesting report you had.

  221. Thanks, Judy. Somebody did find that information, though it’s probably buried somewhere in the many comments. Thanks for contributing.

  222. Hello again, Lee Arrendale was a scary prison for me. I was sent there on a DUI/Accident. It was an irresponsible act on my part and I have paid dearly for it emotionally as well as financially. I have seen the comments here on this site and I feel for each and every one of you. I feel bad for the girl who is in prison who did the meth and was only hurting herself and not others. Prison is not a rehabilitative system but only punishment. Yet, if we can’t delve deep into our psychics we can never come out of the depths of hell to figure out why we do the things we do to ourselves. It isn’t just going through the time; it is figuring out why you did the things you did in the first place. That is a process that many of us have no clue what to do and where to begin. I pray for each and every inmate in the system and those on the outside trying to figure out how to help those on the inside. God bless always and figure it out. It is in your best interest.

  223. Vickie: Thanks for that post; it sums up the situations quite accurately. A dearly beloved friend of mine is now out on parole after having spent most of her adult years to date in prison. (She’s 39.) I mention this because of the additional stacked deck out here in the civilian world, which is unfortunately conducive to recidivism. My friend, whom I’m helping a bit until she can get fully back on her feet (including needed surgery to repair a torn-up knee, the injury 100% prison related.) She once told me that at no time following her earlier releases from prison did she ever have a safe place to lay her head. That alone can kill a person, or at least lead to desperate decisions which in turn lead right back to prison.

    One thing she ran into was 12 weeks of counseling required by her parole stipulations. No surprise about that as such, but when she checked into it, she was told, “If you’re a drug addict, the state will pay for the counseling.”

    “But I’m not an addict.”

    “But if you just say you are, right here on the form, we can get your counseling covered.”

    “You don’t understand. I’m doing everything I can to stay completely straight, and I should twist away from that by lying and saying I’m a drug addict? I don’t think so.”

    So she has to pay for the counseling. No good deed goes unpunished, eh?
    Grace: That’s wonderful to hear.! Thanks for letting us know.

  224. That is unbelievable. What is this system coming too? I do believe that the system is crooked and will never be forthcoming and straight. They are not built on honesty and or respect either for the people who run the system to the top all the way to the bottom.

    If your friend says that she has drug addiction issues that will follow her the rest of her life. She was very smart in saying “no”. They want to label us and put us into a category which can ruin your life. I have discovered the label of “felon” destroyed my life. People are judgmental and will always be that way, in my opinion.

    Thanks for responding. Vickie

  225. Yes, the system is more than a bit rigged, but then it’s always been that way from the time man first began recording history. There are good people sprinkled in with the bad, sometimes surprisingly good, but the balance is not in a convicted felon’s favor, that’s for sure. Fortunately, my friend has her act very much together at this point and possesses both the experience and the native smarts to keep moving forward at this point, or at least so we both believe. She has been institutionalized to a considerable degree (how could she not?) but I counsel her on those issues when I spot them, and she usually needs no more than a “heads up” to make her aware enough to start making changes.

    You are of course right about people being judgmental. It takes a highly spiritually developed Soul to avoid that trap. Fortunately, my own nuclear family–down now to two sisters and their husbands–are not judgmental at all and believe in second chances. Not only are they tolerant of my efforts to assist a deserving ex-con, but they themselves have mentored a bunch of people over the years.

  226. I was pulled over in Cordelle, GA for doing 100MPH on the interstate, cop named Bull told me to follow him. I followed him to the jail. He said said he smelled weed in my car, liar I didn’t even smoke weed. When I called my dad they had already told him they smelled weed and he said I needed to sit for a while. 2 days later I got in a jailhouse fight I went to slam the guy and I dropped him, his head hit the end of the bunk, and broke his damn neck. They rail roaded me to plead to 3 yrs, and got an Agg Assault w/intent to commit murder conviction. Nice right? 4 months later I’m woke up for the prison blue bird. When I asked the driver where I was going he said, Alto. My heart stopped. I had been in jail for 4 months hearing about Alto war stories (all true). I go from dorm 12 to dorm 14 (the worst dorm in the prison) half of the windows in the Annex building were broken. Dorm 14 had 105 inmates, 4 whites guys and me. I was 2 bunks down from the biggest brother in the place, Big Bubba. While there I saw:
    – guys psychologically raped (they had sex out of fear)
    – Physically raped
    – I guy named Black from Macon with 2 knives duct tapped to his hands stab about 5 guys playing skin in skid row
    – a guy get his head split with a sock full of batteries – and guys giving BJs for cookies (for real)
    God hand his hand on me. Although I got into 4 or 5 fights, I was never jumped or stabbed.
    I was moved to dorm 1 in the hospital building, dorm 1 was an honor dorm. I ended up going to Truett McConnell, learned to paint cars at VRC. I met a guy there and we because friends. I was even in his wedding a decade later. Everything you heard about Alto is probably true. Dead mans curve, the hill, “grocery” day was a zoo. So much sadness, there was so much evil there. The buildings, the inmates, the guards, all of them.

    Chico, railroaded in Crisp County sent to Alto

  227. Powerful post, Chico; thanks for sharing. Gotta think it was all over for you the second you found out the original cop’s name was Bull….

    It’s not like bad stuff doesn’t go down out in the world, such as the time a 17 year old girl resident in the Wyoming group home came home to tell us (my ex and I were live-in group home house parents at the time) about the lady who paid her for babysitting. The woman, in her early twenties, was in a car with her fiancé when her ex-boyfriend walked up to the car and shot her guy in the back of the head with a .22. Instant assassination. But of course in prison, and most intensely so in the “old Alto” from what every former inmate says, there’s just no letting up. Glad to hear you survived the experience.

  228. I am interested in talking to people that were in Alto from 78 to 83 or thereabouts. I would love to talk to a guard from back then. Thanks for any suggestions.

  229. I worked at Arrendale from 2006 to 2013. It was an awesome job in the beginning working 3rd shift 10pm-6am. I loved it, there were only trustee, minumum, and a some medium, and a few close security inmates. We sent any knuckle heads to Metro SP so we had very few problems and we had plenty of officers. Buuut then Metro closed down and there was a mass release of minimum security inmates to make room for all the higher security inmates coming from Metro SP. Then slowly we had less and less officers to cover posts making it difficult to keep watch on everything. Eventually i found a job with far more worth and none of the aggravation so i left. We had some good officers but some let the power get to their head and would just make things worse than they needed to be. Alot of the smaller female officers almost always had a complex and would make things more difficult if you had to work with them as they would call you to handle the situation that they made bigger than it needed to be. As an officer you needed to pick your battles and know when to let things slide. Being a male officer and working with female inmates was 90% mental games. Always had to be very careful how you handle situations and delt with the female inmates and always be on the aware of how your interactions might appear or you could get yourself cased up. I always found it entertaining and useful when i could tell if the inmates thought i was cute and or had a crush on me. I could use it to my advantage to get almost anything accomplished from trash or chemical details, to gathering information. A lot of times you would have to give a little in order to receive cooperation, let a small rule bend here or there and some times even break and in turn they would be more willing to help you with something later on when the time came. Also had to be fair and consistent with everyone. Had to treat all of the inmates the same and with a degree of respect, you couldnt treat them like dogs and then expect cooperation. This would also gain you more respect among the inmates and your reputation would spread through the population. As i said before it was mostly mental games that you needed to be aware of and a lot of officers had a hard time figuring this out which made things more difficult for the other officers and the inmates alike. So if you find yourself in there as an inmate, just know that the dick officers arent only a pain in your side.

  230. Thanks, O. That’s one fine comment.

    I well remember (from long distance, not on-site) when Metro closed. Our friend was at Metro, then (like you said) shipped with others to Alto.

    The problem of smaller female officers having attitudes is certainly not limited to Alto. In 2016, I was granted two days of visitation (16 hours total) to Wrightsville in Arkansas because I was driving all the way from Arizona. During my hours at the prison on those two consecutive, midweek days (regular visiting hours were only on weekends), every staff member seemed gracious, friendly, and helpful–except one. And that one was, sure enough, a smaller female officer. Her dislike of me, not even as an inmate but as a civilian, fairly reeked. Had I been an inmate, it would have been problematic.

  231. Yep, the smaller ones have that chihuahua syndrome, they think because theyre small they need to show teeth and be louder I guess. I noticed a lot of people on here mentioning how the “My Cousin Vinny” prison scene was filmed at Arrendale. I worked under a lieutenant that can be seen in the movie, she was a regular officer at that time. Also i was there when National Geographic was filmed there, but since i spent almost all of my time working there on night shift i never made it in to any of the scenes. The Deputy Warden of security that you referenced as seemingly evil at the time Nat Geo was there was not particulary liked by any of the officers with the exception of a few butt kissers. I dont remember her being particularly evil but she wasnt the most approachable or friendly person, she was one of those people that just make you uncomfortable to be around when you work under them. As for how she treated the inmates i couldnt tell you much, some liked her, some didnt, but she was known as a “hug a thug” among officers. Also, we did have a celebrity inmate there at one time, her stage name was Da Brat. I most likely knew or at least had a few run ins with your friend that shipped from Metro to Alto as i worked almost every post in the prison.

  232. I notice a lot of posts talking about how nasty the officers are at LASP so im going to write a little from an officers perspective. First off the inmates in there didnt get there because they donated too much to Goodwill and they didnt get in there from singing too loud in the choir. Yes i know not all of them are bad people, many are incarcerated for minor crimes, some may even be completely innocent. However being an officer you dont know if Betty Loo inmate over there is locked up for a little mary jane possession or if she chopped off the heads of her 3 children and fed them to the dog. We dont know if Betty Loo inmate is asking for a new razor because her legs are harrier than Chewbacca and just wants to feel like a woman or if she is going to take the blade out of it and try to play surgeon with someones neck (seen it happen). Most officers just want to do their 8 and hit the gate, meaning come to work, do their job, and go home to see their kids wives, husbands, etc.. When someone tells you that the officers were always mean or terrible, keep in mind its most likely exaggerated, but there could be an officer or two that are just miserable human beings that they are referring to. Officers have bad days and could have things going on in their home life that could be effecting their mental state at the time, you cant just tell them to leave their personal problems at home when things can effect people on a subconscious level. Inmates can be and are extremely manipulative, not all, but a great many are. Day after day of battling mind manipulation takes its toll on your personality and how you interact with and treat people. As an officer you never know if the inmate that is telling you something is trying to manipulate you or not and they could be setting you up (happens all the time). Keep in mind inmates have a lot of time on their hands to just think and many of them use that time to cook up some devious stuff. I know i sound like im paranoid but until youve walked the beat for a few years you have no idea what the officers go through that work to make sure the inmates stay inside the fence. Again we dont know which inmates are potentially dangerous and which ones just made a mistake in their life. They dont exactly walk around with a sign saying what kind of person they are. If you are corresponding with an inmate youve never met you shouldnt necessarily believe everything they tell you or make assumptions that they are a good person because theyre only going to tell you what they want you to know, manipulation comes to mind again. Yes there are bad officers, but most officers dont go to work at the beginning of their shifts thinking of ways to make inmate life miserable. Were there because we are paid to be there. Quick story of my time working at Lee Arrendale: I was a dishwasher at a small restaurant, i hated the job, saw an add in the paper that Lee Arrendale State Prison was hiring for officers. I had never really thought about being an officer before, let alone at a prison. I didnt even know there was a prison nearby. I thought what the hell ill put in an application. Well ill be danged i got the job and off to training i went. Very very basic training it was. Heck requirements for the job was basically if you had pulse and no convictions they would hire you. Finished 4 weeks of training, if youd call it training, and started my job. I had a lot of sympathy for the inmates and many of them took advantage of my green naive status. Over time i got used to the job and after seeing a lot of s*** and manipulation i grew wise to the trickery and games the inmates would play. The inmates would constanly “test” me every day to see if i was push over and see how well i know the policies and rules. Not the same ones all the time, and not all of them would do this, but a lot would. Over time all the attempted mind games began to take its toll and i grew colder to the sympathy i once had. After about 7 years my mind grew tired of all the constant worry of not being able to trust the people around me and always having to keep an eye on my back and quick wit when approached by the inmates. As i said in my earlier post it was 90% mind games trying to keep things under control. The prison had gone from minimum security with about 1 officer per 100 inmates watching one dormitory to maximum security with about 1 officer per 200 inmates trying to watch 2 dormitories and make sure no one dies and enforce the rules and not make any mistakes and tend to the inmates needs and hoping you dont contract a disease by getting scrathed or poked by something while breakijg up a fight, hoping you dont bring aids or scabies home to your children all while making the equivelant of about $13.50 an hour. Anyways, yea i got sick of it and said enough is enough and quit. I still hear from officers that are still there that things have gotten even worse for the officers. I could go on and on but i have to get back to work.

  233. Ok rant continued:
    PAPERWORK, most officers dont like paperwork. We really dont want to have to write a Disciplinary Report (DR) or at least i didnt, i would offer you to do some kind of work such as cleaning in lieu of a DR. Most of the “good” officers i knew did this as well. We hated to have to give a dormitory bad news such as “no rec today” or “no religious services today.” These events happened and happen usually because we were short staffed, for whatever reason, and you cant have a bunch of murderers, gang members, psychopaths, and whatever else might be in the population mixed with a bunch of drunk driving soccer moms completely unsupervised, bad things WILL happen. We know bad things happen in the prison, but we dont have enough officers to keep eyes on everything or to enforce everything, sorry but the job doesnt pay enough for people to want to make a career out of it any more, the risk isnt worth the reward. If you complain or ask “why dont they hire more officers” just ask yourself whats stopping you from going to put in application to be one, theres your answer. Its not a glamorous job like a fire department, most of what you hear about prisons or see on the news about them is going to be bad. You wont ever hear about how an officer gave inmate so n so cpr to save their life, or how the officer went out of their way to talk down a distraught inmate from hurting themselves.

    Usually when an inmate says the officers are out to get them its because the inmate has attitude issues or is a constant trouble maker. Its not the officers choice to make intakes or RSAT march. We dont make the rules or policies on what we HAVE to make you do, although when the marching and chants were on point it could give an officer goosbumps. Its not that we dont want to help you with your problem, its just that there are more problems than there are officers to deal with them. Its very difficult to sign out tylenol to inmate jane, keep count of everyone going to chow, sign out 1st track school, answer the impatient supervisor on the radio, speak to the nurse on the phone about inmate Mary Jo’s diarrhea, figure out whos yelling in the dayroom and why, all while you really need to take a piss and the inspection team is heading down the hill towards your unit.

  234. You probably did interact with our friend at some point. She maxed out in…2014? Don’t recall the exact year for certain but think that was it. Not that we’ve been in touch since she was released. A few months prior, the warden called me (which never happens, but this time it did) to give me a heads up. Turned out her account was showing an unreasonably high balance and fraud was suspected. Which was true; she’d been a “jail baby” who’d grown up inside, and by the time she was wrapping up her time, the years of “endless education” from career criminals around her had inspired her to con us a bit–we were sending more than she actually needed and she was building a nest egg. We cut off communications the moment this was established but did not go after the coin she’d conned. If we had, she’d have been facing new charges instead of getting out with at least some tiny chance to build a life, and she was 37 at the time. We’d been pen pals since she was 25. At age 37, she was NOT the same person she’d been twelve years earlier. She hadn’t started working her con on us until she was 36, give or take.

    Your “rant” (from an officer’s perspective) is much appreciated. I’m impressed that you made it in that profession as long as you did. I’ve not worked in corrections but did do a few stints over the years as social worker and also live-in group home houseparent and executive director. At that time (late seventies, early eighties), the average burnout rate for a houseparent, nationwide, was 9 months. The work environment wasn’t as intense as a prison, at least not all the time, but there was no “8 and the gate” to it, either. There quite a few skilled manipulators involved, too, both children and parents. It wasn’t as pervasive, but it was there, and you were always on call 24/7.

    In the first group home (in South Dakota) that my (ex-) wife and I ran (1974-1975), we survived pretty well until leaving after 15 months, with solid recommendations from our 15-person Board (to whom I, as Executive Director, reported). But our replacements, an apparently naïve couple just out of college, only lasted six weeks before they were fired. The way we heard it, they’d tried too hard to be “friends” with the teenagers in that intervention group home–one of whom had stolen 13 cars before he came to us at age 13. Carolyn and I had been friendly enough with the kids but watched our backsides, too.

    For example:

    –We made sure I was NEVER alone ANYWHERE with a girl resident. In some states, a man accused of sexual impropriety with a minor is going to prison, period, regardless of whether he did anything wrong or not. We never gave that ANY chance of happening.

    –One extremely attractive girl came to us with a “loose” reputation and immediately tried to feel me up…right at the table where the entire group, including my wife, was seated for supper. I instantly called her on it, openly, in front of everybody. It worked. After flinging a few hormones my way a couple more times (she was 16), she finally settled down in the home and let her considerable intellect shine through. But there were still times when she’d go out for a brief date (Coke and a cheeseburger) and come back with her panties in her pocket….

    –Any time the Board started looking at me funny (which they did occasionally, with various near-accusations), I stood up and barked right back. One Board member was freaked out by my religion, which was not hers. Another questioned the petty cash situation, which we proved was in order. And so on and so forth.

    –I developed and maintained “confidential informants” of my own, which proved ultra-handy more than once. When the 13 year old car thief ran away, one of my 15 year old street contacts (a guy living homeless successfully, major survival skills) gave me a call to let me know the younger boy was with him at the bowling alley, trying to acquire a gun. The runner was quite shocked when local PD officers walked in and collared him.

    But our “fired” replacements apparently hadn’t seen quite as much of the elephant as I had. I don’t know who replaced them.

  235. Much respect to you for having the patience to take care of teens and much respect for those that work in the juvenile facilities. I would rather work with the adults any day, i dont have the patience or restraint for it. Some people are cut out for it, some arent.

  236. Understood, and respect back to well. Each of us has our own strengths. My current wife (of 22 years) does best with babies, Down’s syndrome people, young adults trying to escape addiction, and some of the elderly. (Or rather, she did, before her own disabilities, including dementia, knocked her out of contention,)

  237. My name is James Shaw Jr I was in Alto around 1979 1980 almost two years I spent there is a youthful offender what I read is true I seen a young boy raped in the shower over and over by several black inmates he was an epileptic it went into seizures during the rape. They just kept on and on with the rape. Yes I remember Alto very well.
    This is the first time I’ve ever been in trouble. I went into Alto a young boy and came out a harden criminal. I am totally disabled now with mental problems. Thanks to our DOC. I’ll tell anyone my story and hope it can help. I’m 57 years old now and remember Alto very well

  238. I am new to this and I have some questions about Arrendale. My niece was sent there July 2019 on a twelve month sentence. My questions are: how long does the diagnostics take, how long before they can have visitors, can they receive mail while going through diagnostics, how do I put money on her account, do I have to put money on an account for phone calls, how do I know when she can have visitors? As far as I know I am the only one she has. Thank you all so much for any answers

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