Prisoner stabs warden at Telfair State Prison

Tear gas deployed as prisoners refused to comply with shakedown
Georgia Department of Corrections has confirmed that a prisoner at Telfair State Prison stabbed the prison's warden when inmates refused to comply with orders during a shakedown. (Hyosub Shin /



Georgia Department of Corrections has confirmed that a prisoner at Telfair State Prison stabbed the prison's warden when inmates refused to comply with orders during a shakedown. (Hyosub Shin /

The warden at Telfair State Prison was stabbed by a prisoner during a disturbance Wednesday, and officers used tear gas to get prisoners under control, a Georgia Department of Corrections official confirmed.

Warden Andrew McFarlane was not seriously injured, according to GDC spokesperson Joan Heath. “The warden was treated by facility medical personnel for superficial wounds and is expected to be okay,” Health, director of the GDC’s Office of Public Affairs, said in an email to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The incident began about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday when staff members were conducting a shakedown to remove contraband from one dorm, but those in the dorm refused to comply with the lockdown, Heath wrote. At that time, one inmate assaulted the warden with a homemade weapon, she wrote.

Her email did not say how many times the warden was stabbed, how many prisoners were involved in the incident or how long it took to get them under control.

She wrote that the GDC staff deployed “less-lethal munitions” to get inmates to comply with orders. Heath later clarified that “Chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile gas” —commonly known as tear gas — was used during the incident.

“The facility remains on lockdown as standard procedure following an incident,” Heath said. “There were no additional injuries to staff or inmates reported, and there was minimal damage within the dorm to the televisions.”

Heath said the inmate responsible for the attack would be turned over for investigation and prosecution. She did not identify the prisoner.

Telfair is a “close security” prison, housing some of the state’s most dangerous offenders, but it is also among the worst-staffed in Georgia, with a majority of its correctional officer positions unfilled, the AJC has found. It also is known for a high level of violence.

As of January, 76% of its correctional officer positions —118 spots — were unfilled. That means the prison had only 36 correctional officers on staff, while it has more than 1,400 prisoners.

Higher-ranking security staff members often carry out tasks normally handled by correctional officers because of the staffing shortages that plague the state prison system.

McFarlane, 54, was named the warden at Telfair last July 1, putting him in that role for the first time after a career within the Department of Corrections spanning more than 25 years.

According to the GDC news release citing his promotion, McFarlane served in both the Army and the Marine Corps before starting his career as a correctional officer with the GDC in 1997 at Smith State Prison in Glennville. He moved up the ranks at Smith, becoming a unit manager in 2014, and was named deputy warden of security at nearby Rogers State Prison in 2016. Three years later, he returned to Smith in the same role and was in that position when he was named warden at Telfair.

Wednesday’s incident comes as Georgia’s prison system is facing intense scrutiny.

The AJC recently reported that 2023 set a record for homicides inside Georgia’s prisons with 37 deaths, including the killing of a correctional officer at Smith State Prison. That number far outpaces prison homicides in recent years, the AJC found. In 2017, there were eight homicides in Georgia prisons, and in 2018 there were nine, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. The homicide numbers have been climbing ever since, reaching 31 deaths in 2022.

In a series of stories last year, the AJC exposed extensive corruption among prison employees, widespread drug use and drug dealing inside prisons, massive officer vacancies, record homicides and large criminal enterprises that operate inside state prisons — and victimize people on the outside — with the help of contraband cellphones.

With prison violence in Georgia at a crisis point, the state Senate has created a study committee to closely examine the prison system and identify ways to improve safety and address other problems.

The prison system is also under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division, which since September 2021 has been investigating prison violence.