Forsyth, GA (WGCL) — Images of a beaten, bruised and humiliated teen went viral on social media this past week. His family says the photo was taken inside a Georgia prison by alleged gang members after the beating. The photo shows the 18-year-old on his knees with a leash around his neck.
While his family admits Cortez Berry is no angel, both his mother and aunt tell CBS46 that he did not deserve the beat down he got inside prison walls, nor did he deserve to have it posted on social media.
Experts tell CBS46 this is all part of a growing trend of using technology as a way of spreading prison violence.
“Blood was everywhere. My nephew tells me blood was everywhere,” claimed Shavondria Wright when speaking of Berry’s attack. “Ten people jumped on him and they just kept beating and beating him and they choked him to sleep. Pretty much they left him there for dead.”
But the 18-year-old didn’t die. He survived the brutal beating at the Burress Correctional facility only to find out photos of the attack made it out of the prison and were posted on Facebook for everyone, including his family, to see.
“I was like oh my God! What happened? How did it happen,” claimed Berry’s mother, Demetria Harris.
Sara Totonchi of the Southern Center for Human Rights says this violence and the abundance of cell phones behind prison walls is overwhelming in Georgia.
“People who are incarcerated have at some point or another had access to a cell phone,” claimed Totonchi. “There have been hits ordered through illegal cell phones inside the prisons.”
Although we don’t know if that is the case in Berry’s situation, the teen says his attack came after he refused to join a prison gang.
“They’re not being protected,” claimed his mother. “I don’t care what they’re there for, he still need to be protected.”
And that protection needs to extend beyond the prison walls, says Totonchi.
“When we see things like the photo that has come out in the last few days, what it says to me is that it is time for the Georgia Department of Corrections to step up and take measures so that families can’t be blackmailed by seeing horrible pictures of their loved ones injured,” said Totonchi.
According to Cortez’s family, the teen is recovering but still very concerned about his safety behind bars.
All attempts to reach the Department of Corrections for comment have thus far gone unanswered.
By Natalie Tejeda