Smith State Prison shooting: Inmate, Aramark employee may have had relationship

An inmate shot and killed an employee at Smith State Prison over the weekend before turning the gun on himself, according to prison officials.

It reportedly happened at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Jaydrekus Hart was identified as the inmate who turned a gun on an Aramark food service employee who was working in the prison kitchen.

Hart had been serving a 20-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery committed in 2013 in Carroll County. His maximum release date was June 2043.

The Georgia Department of Corrections said on Monday afternoon that the inmate and the Aramark employee, Grace, had a "personal relationship" and Hart left a "suicide note." It's not clear how Hart had obtained the gun.

Jaydrekus Hart (Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections)

DOC also said they would not be able to answer any other questions. 

Georgia's prison security lapse

Joshua Schiffer has been practicing criminal law in Metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia for two decades. 

"The idea that a firearm and ammunition was able to be acquired by an inmate in a Georgia maximum-security prison is indefensible," he said. "There is absolutely no way that any inmate should have been able to lay his hands on an instrument of that power." 

Schiffer said the prison, which houses about 1500 of the state's most dangerous offenders, has been rife with problems. 

Last year, the GBI charged the prison’s warden in a sprawling contraband conspiracy. 

Months later, investigators say an inmate shanked 42-year-old guard Robert Clark to death from behind. 

Hart was serving time for a voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery case from 2015 out of Carroll County. 

His earliest release date would have been 2043. 

"This example is an unfortunate reflection of what’s happening in Georgia’s prison as a whole," Schiffer said.  

The entire state correctional system has been under a years-long Department of Justice investigation into alleged civil rights abuses. 

The state legislature just formed a committee to review it from top to bottom. 

"I don’t expect any changes to happen quickly, because the funding and personnel are not available to adequately staff the prisons," Schiffer said.  

The DOC spokesperson was not able to provide an explanation into how Hart got the gun. 

Georgia's prisons assessment ordered by Kemp

Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Department of Corrections announced plans to assess the current operational efficiency and effectiveness within the Peach State’s prison system. The governor’s office says this is part of the state’s $1.6 billion investment in public safety. 

"Keeping Georgians safe continues to be my top priority," stated Governor Kemp. "Since I took office in 2019, Georgia has made significant progress in bringing more violent criminals to justice; cracking down on criminal street gangs; investing in our brave law enforcement personnel, including corrections officers; and strengthening penalties on those who seek to threaten our communities. By ensuring our correctional facilities have the funding, technology, infrastructure, and operations to fulfill their mission, this comprehensive assessment is the next step in achieving a safer, stronger Georgia for all who call the Peach State home." 

The State has partnered with Guidehouse, Inc., which includes The Moss Group and CGL Companies, to conduct an impartial and thorough assessment. The goal is to develop recommendations to improve the current system. 

"When Governor Kemp appointed me, he gave me the clear mandate to keep Georgians safe by improving our corrections system," said GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver. "Thanks to our partnership with the General Assembly and other state leaders, we’ve done just that by improving retention levels, removing approximately $7 million worth of contraband from our prisons, shutting down the largest contraband trafficking ring in the country, and more. But we know we have a lot more room to grow, which is why I’m thankful Guidehouse will provide a thorough review of our facilities and policies that will guide the next phase of GDC improvements." 

Over the next year, Guidehouse will visit multiple state prison facilities, work collaboratively with GDC personnel to gather information, conduct interviews with relevant stakeholders, and develop a full assessment based on evidence-based practices and research.  

Only when the assessment is complete will any recommendations be made public.