Jake Shore, The Current

After more than 800 days in Glynn County jail, time during which Georgians protested racial inequality and juries found three men guilty of murder and hate crimes, Ahmaud Arbery’s killers have finally entered state custody to serve their life sentences.

On Tuesday morning, Glynn County Sheriff’s deputies transported Travis and Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan to Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Ga., according to a press release.

A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Corrections confirmed the men entered state custody at around 10:30 a.m. 

It’s the first time they left Glynn County since their arrests in May 2020, almost four months since they hunted down and killed the 25-year-old Black man out for a run on a  February Sunday afternoon. 

The men received their sentences earlier this month for the federal hate crimes conviction affirming that the murder was racially motivated. Late last year a state jury found them guilty of felony murder, a conviction for which they received life in prison.

During the sentencing hearings at the Brunswick federal courthouse, lawyers for Greg, 66, and Travis McMichael, 36, made last ditch efforts to let the father and son serve their time in federal prison before state prison. Federal prisons are thought of as safer than state prisons generally, and Georgia prisons in particular. The lawyers pointed out that Georgia’s prison system is under federal investigation for how it protects inmates from violence and sexual abuse. The attorneys said the men could be in danger for their roles in the Arbery’s death. 

Ahmaud Arbery

Ahmaud Arbery

Credit: The Current/file photo

Before the start of the federal trial, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, protested a plea deal between the U.S. Attorney General’s office and the McMichaels that would have meant the two agreeing to a guilty verdict in exchange of spending their time in federal prison. She pleaded with the judge not to show any leniency for the crime that had originally been written off by local law enforcement and district attorneys as a justified killing.

“Please listen to me,” Jones told U.S. District Judge Lisa G. Wood. “It is not fair to take away this victory that I prayed and I fought for. It is not right. It is not just. It is wrong. Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement would defeat me. It gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son.”

This month Judge Wood sentenced the McMichaels to a life sentence and said, per standard policy, that they would serve their time first in a Georgia prison. She sentenced Bryan, 52, to 35 years in federal prison should he ever be released from state prison. 

Which prison?

The Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, which is 233 miles northwest of Brunswick, will likely not be the final destination for the McMichaels and Bryan, according to the department of corrections.

“As standard procedure, each of the individuals will undergo the diagnostic process at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, which typically takes approximately two weeks,” Joan Heath, spokesperson for the state prison system, said. “Once that process is complete, they will be given a permanent housing assignment.”

As part of that diagnostic process, the McMichaels and Bryan will undergo medical and mental health screenings in addition to interviews and orientation.

Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison

Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Heath said the factors that go into a person’s prison assignment include their conviction, medical history, educational needs, drug/alcohol history, programming needs, and other factors.

At the federal sentencing, Greg McMichael’s lawyer said the 66-year-old had suffered from declining health since his incarceration and has experienced depression for years. 

A lawyer for Bryan said he may seek drug and alcohol counseling while in prison. 

The three security levels of prisons the men could be sent to include close security, medium security and minimum security, according to the GDC.  

  • Close security: For inmates who are considered dangerous and escape risks. They may never be employed for a program/job outside the prison and “require supervision at all times by a correctional officer.”
  • Medium security: For inmates who have “no major adjustment problems.” They may work on a job outside the prison but require constant supervision.
  • Minimum security: For inmates who are deemed a minimal threat and escape risk. They may work outside of the prison with minimal supervision. 

Two days after the McMichaels and Bryan receive their prison assignments, their pictures and assignments will be available for public search on the GDC’s website, Heath said.

According to court filings, the McMichaels have both filed appeals in federal court for their convictions.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with The Current, providing in-depth journalism for Coastal Georgia.