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“The System Killed My Son.”

Since January of 2020, at least 32 people have been killed in the Georgia prison system. Eight homicides occurred at Macon State Prison in 2020 – six of these over the course of just six months. More people died by homicide at Macon State Prison than were killed in multi-year periods in other states’ entire prison systems. (For example, the Arizona DOC had two reported homicides in all its prisons in fiscal year 2019, and none in fiscal year 2020.) In the first eight months of 2020, more people were murdered in Georgia prisons than in any single year in the Department between 2014 and 2018. 

Carrington ‘Sip’ Frye, a beloved son, brother, and friend, died on March 20th, 2020, after being stabbed at Macon State Prison. He is one of at least 30 people killed since March of last year in an unmitigated crisis in the Georgia Department of Corrections. Mr. Frye’s mother, Jennifer Bradley, is speaking out, in the hopes that no family has to endure what hers has. She writes:

“Carrington was barely seventeen years old when he was arrested and given harsh prison time, as if he was a poster child for criminal offenses. To further assassinate his young character, the police hyped up, and over exaggerated the details of his offense to several news outlets in Georgia…Carrington made an unfavorable decision when he was just a teenager that cost no-one their life, or even quality of life; but he paid for the choice he made as a boy with his own life. Carrington was just about home, and looking forward to embracing his new start in society. We had discussed plans and made provisions to assist him in his journey. Instead, I found myself preparing my son for his final resting place.”

People incarcerated in Georgia have been exposed to extreme deprivations over the course of the pandemic. Insufficient food and medical care, no visitation or programming, uncontrolled outbreaks, increased use of solitary and lockdowns, cells with no running water or functioning toilets, and little security or supervision, all led to uprisings that erupted in several prisons last summer. Officers left their posts as the environment became untenable, exacerbating the conditions of neglect and chaos. In June of last year, there were 2,740 unfilled officer positions throughout the Department, a vacancy rate of nearly 30%. Macon State Prison, where Mr. Frye was killed, had an officer vacancy rate of 46.8%. Today, the officer vacancy rate at Macon has climbed to over 50%. (There are ten prisons in the state, including Macon, with an officer vacancy rate of over 50%.) The prison did not alert his mother to his death; instead, she heard about it from his friends, who contacted her on a contraband cellphone.

“On March 20th of this year, I had received the devastating news of Carrington’s murder, not by the warden or any other prison official at Macon State Prison, but from another prisoner several hours later. The words will probably still haunt me when I’m on my deathbed, giving in to my last breath. “Ma’am, please call up to the prison and check on your son. He got stabbed, and they said he was dead.” I fell to the floor and crawled my way to my oldest son’s room; afraid to depend on my legs to hold me up. A collage of images – from me giving birth to Carrington; to him at nine years old offering me his allowance to use for gas money; to me being in prison with him jumping in front of the wielding knife – flooded my mind like the waters of a broken levy. I called Macon State Prison; screaming, shaking, afraid, and feeling foreign inside my own skin; awaiting the warden to confirm what I already knew to be the horrific end.”

Read the rest of Jennifer Bradley’s piece here.