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Vol. 75/No. 3      January 24, 2011

Prisoners in Georgia
protest dismal conditions
ATLANTA—The NAACP and families of prisoners have recently charged that Georgia prison guards beat at least three handcuffed inmates in late December in retaliation for an earlier work stoppage to protest prison conditions.

Prisoners in at least six Georgia state prisons carried out the strike earlier that month in support of demands to be paid for their work, more educational and vocational opportunities, improved health care, an end to cruel and unusual punishment, livable conditions, nutritious meals, access to family members, and just parole decisions.

There are approximately 53,000 people held in Georgia's 30 state prisons. One in every 13 adults in the state is in prison, on probation, or paroled.

The beatings of inmates followed a visit to two prisons by a delegation headed by the NAACP to investigate conditions the prisoners had brought to light. Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, told reporters the men were beaten with hammers. One incarcerated at Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe was struck in the head so severely he was in a hospital intensive care unit for several days. Other beatings occurred at Smith State Prison in Glennville shortly after the civil rights delegation visited.

Except for about 20 people in two state prisons who earn $7.25 an hour, Georgia inmates are prohibited by state law from receiving wages for their labor. Inmates work in prison kitchens, laundries, and maintenance. They work in shops manufacturing furniture, clothing, signs, and other items sold to government agencies. They also clean and repair nearby state roads and government buildings.

In a telephone interview with the Militant, Victor Hixon in Rome described the situation facing his cousin, who is now in a Floyd County work-release program primarily of men behind on child-support payments. "Each person is required to pay $140 out of their weekly wages for food, housing, and transportation,” he said. Hixon called imprisonment in the United States a "new form of slavery."

Educational opportunities are not available beyond obtaining a GED. Prisoners are required to pay for some medical services and phone calls.

Smith State prisoners began discussing a protest after the state in September imposed a ban on prisoners having cigarettes. Using cell phones that are considered “contraband” but are routinely purchased from guards for hundreds of dollars each, prisoners in different jails began communicating with each other. “We have to come together and set aside all differences—white, Blacks, those of us who are affiliated in gangs,” an inmate named Mike told the media.

On December 9 at Hays, Macon, Smith, and Telfair state prisons, inmates locked themselves in their cells after the normal morning unlocking by the prison administration. They stayed in there as part of a strike from all work. In response, the prison administration enforced a "lock-down," which was lifted after prisoners ended their strike six days later.

The inmates are continuing to press their demands. On December 20 the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners' Rights, formed in response to the protest, organized the fact-finding delegation to visit Georgia Department of Corrections officials and the prisons themselves. In addition to the NAACP, members of the delegation included Georgia American Civil Liberties Union, Nation of Islam, U.S. Human Rights Network, and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. The NAACP has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
Related articles:
Parole official opposes freeing Puerto Rican activist
Texas inmate’s conviction overturned after 30 years  
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