Incarceration Nation

Georgia Brutalizes Inmates, Silences Families, Stonewalls Advocates, Justice Department Does Nothing So Far

By Bruce A. Dixon

Nobody ever expected Barack Obama to be a savior or even a fighter for human and civil rights. Those, after all, are high standards. When it comes to protecting the rights of prisoners, the administration of the First Black President and First Black Attorney General barely if at all meet the much lower standard of showing up for work and answering their mail.

Twenty-one months ago Georgia prisoners reached across racial, religious and other dividing lines and staged a heroic strike. They remained peacefully in their cells, demanding education and recreational opportunities, timely parole and transparent disciplinary procedures, decent food and medical attention and wages for work. To this day, the state of Georgia continues to wage a campaign of brutal retaliation against inmates and their families.

Over these many months, prison authorities have routinely blocked mail and phone access, and denied medical care and showers and other essentials for weeks at a time to inmates it accuses of leading the December 2011 strike. Most of them still remain confined to solitary cells in the SMU unit of the same massive prison complex where Georgia murdered Troy Davis just over a year ago.

In recent weeks no fewer than ten federal lawsuits have been filed by brutalized prisoners, and two more by their advocates and family members outside. Though all the inmate suits are nearly the same, federal judges have allowed only one of them to proceed. They all allege that the state has violated its own procedures both by failing to state its reasons for putting prisoners in solitary confinement, and then refusing to review their status every thirty days.

One of the outside lawsuits is filed by Delma Jackson, the wife of Miguel Jackson alleging that her visits, letters and phone calls have been blocked by state authorities purely and simply because she spoke out publicly on behalf of her husband and others behind the walls. The other outside lawsuit against Georgia’s Department of Corrections was filed by Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of TOPS, The Ordinary Peoples Society, accuses lawless state authorities of refusing, over a period of several months worth of inquiries, to provide documentation of exactly what their disciplinary and review procedures are.

Local activists, and attorneys representing the prisoners have asked the Obama administration’s Justice Department to look into the many violations of civil and human rights bubbling on the surface of Georgia’s campaign to brutalize prisoners in its care, silence their families and stonewall their advocates.

“The Justice Department has responded to us,” Pastor Glasgow told Black Agenda Report, “but without saying they intend to do anything specific about our allegations. We’re still waiting,” the pastor said, 1 “and although hope is not a plan, we do remain hopeful.”

In early September representatives of more than a dozen local organizations, ranging from Georgia WAND to Project South to the Green Party, activists from Occupy and formations of ex-offenders met at the Georgia state capitol to renew their resolve in fighting for the locked down and locked away. If you want to help, contact the hopeful folks fighting for the human rights of Georgia prisoners at 334-671-2882.

Black Agenda Report, September 18, 2012