GA Prison Hunger Strike Enters 5th Week

From: Black Agenda Report
July 12th 2012

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

As the hunger strike by 9 Georgia prisoners demanding medical care, due process and human rights enters its 5th week, prison officials are surprised at the level of outside support the inmates enjoy despite a virtual news whiteout. Concerned family members and others plan to visit the Department of Corrections headquarters on Monday, July 16.

Hunger Strike in GA Prison Enters 5th Week

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

The hunger strike begun on June 11 by nine prisoners at Georgia’s massive Diagnostic and Classification prison, the same place where Troy Davis was murdered last year, continues into its fifth week. Though reports published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution declare the strike over, the families and one of the attorneys of inmates insist that the nine prisoners remain resolved, and continue to insist on administrative review of their status, adequate medical care, and access to mail and visitation privileges with their families and attorneys which have been arbitrarily denied them.

Our sources claim that these nine were among the 37 singled out by corrections officials in late 2010 and early 2011 after the peaceful strike by Georgia prisoners of December 2010. They were rounded up, many severely beaten, and transferred to close confinement and constant lockdown at Jackson, where they have remained ever since.

On Monday July 9, about 30 people showed up at Georgia’s state capitol to visit the governor’s office, where they left letters of support for the hunger strikers. Through direct and indirect contacts with their families and attorneys and other inmates, the prisoners know that they DO have significant support on the outside. The warden, for example, remarked to Miguel Jackson his surprise that the Georgia Green Party was supporting the strikers. Your phone calls to the prison warden, to the Department of Corrections, and the governor of Georgia have already made a difference.

Whether or not the hunger strike lasts much longer, the nine prisoners involved have already demonstrated their unshakable resolve , and deserve your continued concern and support, and your calls, which are still needed.

When you call, ask about them by name and ID number. Here are the names and ID numbers of the nine prisoners now in the fifth week of their hunger strike. They are:

Justin Boston, ID 1305227

Quentin D. Cooks, ID 1142336

Contravius Grier, ID 591396

Miguel Jackson, ID 890692

Bobby Anthony Minor, ID 1191993

Dexter Shaw, ID 429768

Robert Watkins, ID 1245402

Demetrius White, ID 581709

And here are the people to call:

Warden, GA Diagnostic & Classification Prison, Butts County GA: 770-504-2000

Brian Owens, Commissioner, GA Department of Corrections, ask for his administrative assistant Peggy Chapman 478-992-5258

Georgia governor Nathan Deal: 404-656-1776
Fax the governor at 404-657-7332.
You can also send the Governor a letter online by clicking here.

GA Department of Corrections Ombudsman
478-992-5367 or 478-992-5358

No fax, but you can email them at Please add a cc to the email,

Sign the petition in support of the Jackson Prison hunger strikers: Click here

If you’re in the Atlanta area on Monday, July 16, join us as we travel by van and carpool to the headquarters of the Georgia Department of Corrections in Forsyth GA where, along with the families of some of the strikers, we will demand a meeting with Brian Owens, the head of the department. Meet us at the West End MARTA station, 9 AM sharp. Some cars will be returning around lunch time, some others will probably stay in Forsyth the whole day.

The prisoners behind those walls have done all they can do. What you can do is sign the petition supporting the demands of the hunger strikers. You can pick up the phone to call and express your concern and support. You can forward this to your email and social networks, family, friends and acquaintances.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Please also read: There Is No Justice In Georgia, in the SF Bay View, July 11th 2012

Please also read: Protesters demand Georgia prison reform: About 40 demonstrators gathered outside the state Capitol in Atlanta on Monday to express support for Georgia prison inmates who have reportedly been on a hunger strike for nearly a month.

Please Call and Sign Petition to Support an Ongoing Hunger Strike in Georgia Prison in its third week

From: Human Rights Coalition – PA Prison Report:

Action Alert: Please Call and Sign Petition to Support an Ongoing Hunger Strike in Georgia Prison in its third week

Another hunger strike, this one in Georgia is being waged by some of those who participated in the historic December 2010 work strike that sparked the growing wave of resistance inside the walls. Please sign the petition at this link and go to the bottom of this story from Black Agenda Report and make some calls for those on strike.

Starving For Change: Hunger Strike Underway In Georgia’s Jackson State Prison, Day 15
by BAR manging editor Bruce A. Dixon

Since June 10, according to accounts from prisoners and their families and Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society and the Prodigal Child Project, an undetermined number of prisoners at Georgia’s massive Diagnostic and Classification Prison near the city of Jackson have been on a hunger strike.

Back in December 2010, black, brown and white inmates in several Georgia prisons staged a peaceful protest remaining in their dorms and cells rather than go to meals or work assignments. Their reasonable demands included wages for work, speedier and more transparent status reviews, decent food, real medical care, a more sane visitation policy and the availability of educational and vocational programs behind the walls. State corrections officials responded with temporary cutoffs of heat, water and electricity in some buildings, along with an orgy of savage assaults and beatings across multiple institutions statewide. In one instance, corrections officials apparently conspired to conceal the whereabouts and condition of one prisoner who lingered near death in a coma for most of a week while they shuffled him hundreds of miles between prisons and hospitals.

State corrections say they rounded up 37 whom they believed were the strike leaders and put them under close confinement at Jackson, the same prison where Troy Davis was executed last year. Most of these prisoners have remained there in close confinement, with severely restricted access to visits, communication and their attorneys, and without medical attention for the past 18 months.

Some of these men are the Jackson State prison hunger strikers. After two weeks, according to the families of Miguel Jackson and Preston Whiting, they are weak from hunger and subject to fainting spells. But they seem to believe they have little to lose. They are, a letter from one of them asserts, “starving for change.” There were originally ten of them, but some may have been transferred out, and some other prisoners joined the strike. We hope to have clearer information tomorrow.

They are demanding access to proper hygiene, medical treatment for their numerous and severe injuries, many of which were inflicted 18 months ago, the restoration of their visiting and communications rights, and access to their meager personal property. They and their attorneys insist that the Georgia Department of Corrections follow its own published procedures requiring a status review of every inmate in punitive isolation every 30 days. They further insist that such evaluations be public and transparent so as to preclude the possibility of prejudicial conduct on the party of prison officials.

One of the strikers is Miguel Jackson, who was taken in handcuffs from his cell at Smith State Prison 18 months ago, removed to a secluded area out of range of the video cameras that monitor almost every inch of most Georgia prisons, and beaten with a hammer-like object. Jackson is one of several brutalized prisoners whose injuries have been untreated since. Despite a blizzard of demands by his attorney, prison officials have refused Jackson and other prisoners medical attention for months. And although they have not eaten in two weeks, Jackson’s wife said, at the nine-day mark when medical necessity usually demands prisoners be removed to the infimary, prison officials simply told Jackson “You’re going to die,” and left it at that.

“Most of civilized humanity regards extended solitary confinement as a crime,” said Rev. Kennieth Glasgow. “No less an establishment figure than Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) convened an extraordinary public hearing on the subject less than a week ago. We are calling on the governor to ensure proper medical treatment for the hunger strikers, to restore their visitation other rights and to end their punitive confinement without delay.

“We hope that people around the state and around the country will call the prison, the Department of Corrections and Georgia’s governor to express their concern for the well-being of the prisoners on hunger strike, and we further hope that they will join us on Monday July 2 for a day-long fast in solidarity with the Georgia prisoners who are only insisting upon their dignity, their humanity, their legal and human rights.”

We at BAR and the Georgia Green Party hope that you will take the time today and tomorrow to do four things:

– Call, email and/or fax the numbers below. Politely convey your deep concern for the welfare of the prison hunger strikers at Georgia Diagnostic Prison, especially Mr. Jackson. We believe there are about ten of them, and will publish their names and ID numbers on Wednesday.

Sign the petition to Georgia’s governor demanding an end to the torture of solitary confinement and punitive isolation in its state prisons.

– Forward this article and the link to it all your friends, family and co-workers and ask them to do the same. Send or carry a copy to your pastor and ask him to mention the fast on Sunday, and invite him to fast that day as well.

– Participate in the July 2 solidarity fast with Georgia’s prisoners who are standing up for their human rights across lines of race and religion. The prisoners, like the rest of us, are black, brown and white and of varying religious beliefs.

Black Agenda Report will contain, in its regular Wednesday issue tomorrow an update on the strikers and their condition, and more information about the July 2 solidarity fast and other local activities in support of Georgia’s prisoners on hunger strike.

Who to Call

Fax phone
Warden, GA Diagnostic & Classification Prison, Butts County GA
Phone: 770-504-2000
Fax: 770-504-2006

GA Department of Corrections Ombudsman
Phone: 478-992-5367 or 478-992-5358

No fax, but you can email them at Please add a cc to the email,

Brian Owens, Commissioner, GA Department of Corrections, ask for his administrative assistant Peggy Chapman
Phone: 478-992-5258

Georgia governor Nathan Deal
Phone: 404-656-1776

Fax the governor at 404-657-7332.

You can also send the Governor a letter online by clicking here.

For its part, the Georgia Green Party sponsors an ongoing effort to work with the families of the incarcerated and others called the Campaign to End Mass Incarceration, and maintains a web page at The Campaign to End Mass Incarceration has a list of 13 demands.

To find out what you can do, and who you can connect with to do it, especially in Georgia, visit and register at, and they’ll be in touch with you soon.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)

Georgia Prison Strike, One Year Later: Activists Outside the Walls Have Failed Those Inside the Walls

From: Black Agenda Report:
Dec 21, 2011
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In December 2010 inmates in up to a dozen Georgia prisons either refused to leave their cells for work assignments, or were pre-emptively locked down by prison officials. They demanded wages for work, access to educational programs, fairness in release decisions, along with decent food and medical care. An ad hoc coalition sprung up to negotiate with state officials, and gained privileged access to Smith and Macon State Prisons. But the coalition has long since withered and died, without even issuing reports from its December 2010 fact finding visits. What happened? And what happens next?

The Concerned Coalition To Respect Prisoner Rights was supposed to issue public reports of its fact-finding prison visits. That never happened.

A year ago this month, black, white and brown inmates in a dozen Georgia prisons staged a brief strike. They put forward a set of simple and basic demands — wages for work, decent food and medical care, access to educational and self-improvement programs, fairness and transparency in the way the state handles grievances, inmate funds and release decisions, and more opportunities to connect with their families and loved ones. A short-lived formation calling itself the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner Rights came together, and met with the Georgia Department of Corrections. In the last weeks of 2010 teams of community observers were allowed to visit Macon State and Smith prisons, where they examined facilities and interviewed staff and prisoners.

The Concerned Coalition To Respect Prisoner Rights was supposed to issue public reports of its fact-finding prison visits. That never happened. It was to have initiated a long-term dialog with state officials in pursuit of the inmates’ eminently just and reasonable demands. That never happened either. It should have called public meetings and begun to organize a lasting campaign to educate the public on the meaning of Georgia’s and the nation’s prison state, and the possibilities for radical reform. These are the things the prisoners expected of their allies and spokespeople on the outside. But compromised and undermined from within and without, the coalition was unable to make any of these things happen. Thus the trust that Georgia prisoners placed in activists outside the walls to organize in support of their demands was betrayed.

From the beginning, members of the coalition uncritically deferred to a single one of their number with extremely limited local availability. That leading person vetoed public meetings, the establishment of an interactive web site or even a steering committee listserve, insisting that nobody else could not be trusted to manage or access the coalition’s contacts. So apart from the limited interactivity of a seldom updated Facebook page, the coalition maintained no easily found point of public contact. This leading person, in sole charge of calling meetings simply stopped emailing or telephoning this reporter and others who contributed significantly to the cause of the prisoners.

State authorities did their party to gut the coalition as well. Georgia got a new governor at the beginning of 2011, who took a keen interest in his own right wing vision of “criminal justice reform.” Taking his cues from an ultraconservative think tank called “Right On Crime”, Governor Deal is one of those who believes the main thing wrong with mass incarceration is that it’s too expensive. Aided by the Pew Foundation and a major state contractor, Deal created a commission on “criminal justice reform” composed of judges, prosecutors and state legislators to approve what his consultants cooked up — a hodgepodge of recommendations to shrink the state’s maximum and medium security institutions while greatly expanding probation, home monitoring, workfare, closely supervised “diversion” and misnamed “re-entry” programs, all under the profitable guidance of well-connected “not for profit” entrepreneurs.

True to his name, Deal reportedly made a deal with some leading figures in the Coalition to Respect Prisoner Rights, who bolted the coalition with the expectation that if they help line up black Democrats behind the white Republican governor’s “criminal justice reform” proposals, they’d get some of the state’s new “re-entry” money. A senior national civil rights leader quietly flew in and out of Atlanta the same day to quietly meet with Governor Deal about his deal. So the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner Rights, withered and died.

And so, a year out from the December 2010 prison strike, it is clear that activists outside the walls have largely failed to honor their commitment to those inside the walls. In the past year, not much has changed. Scores of prisoners alleged to be strike leaders were punitively transferred and locked down in the wake of the strike. Dozens more who were not strike leaders were savagely beaten, as exemplary reprisals for the strike, and denied medical attention afterward. State officials conspired to hide from his family and the public the whereabouts of one man they beat into a coma for nearly two weeks as he hung between life and death. A handful of guards were charged, but local prosecutors and grand juries refused to indict. The federal Justice Department, under its first black attorney general, and president has thus far expressed no interest in protecting prisoners from the arbitrary and brutal retaliation inflicted upon them by Georgia officials.

Inmates with debilitating and life threatening conditions are still mostly untreated. Educational programs are available to less than 5% of prisoners, and thousands of Georgia’s prisoners as young as 14, 15 and 16 years old, continue to be confined in adult institutions with adults. Bank of America still has the exclusive contract to handle inmate accounts, and levies a parasitic fee each and every time a family member sends an inmate a few dollars, and deducts another monthly charge as long as any funds remain in an inmate account. This year as last, thousands of prisoners who speak mainly Spanish are not afforded interpreters at disciplinary hearings, and with no transparency at any level it’s impossible to know whether there is any hint of fairness in these proceedings. Politically connected companies like J-Pay and Global TelLink are still allowed to siphon millions each month from the families of inmates by collecting tolls on the money transfers going into and phone calls coming out of prison. Food ranges from bad to merely inadequate, vermin infestations abound, and of course Georgia inmates still work every day without pay.

On Wednesday December 14, a year after the strike, Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of TOPS, The Ordinary Peoples Society showed up at the Georgia state capitol with some of the families and supporters of prisoners savagely beaten by wardens and correctional officers in Georgia after the strike.

“We are here to reaffirm our commitment to the prisoners who made a principled stand for their own and each others’ human rights a year ago this week. We know the ball was dropped. TOPS and the National Organization of Formerly Incarcerated Persons, along with some others, are picking it up. Over the past year we’ve worked to secure legal and other assistance to the families of some of the prisoners who suffered beat downs in retaliation for the December 2010 strike, and we’ve expanded our work with the National Organization of Formerly Incarcerated Persons. But we know that much more has to be done to fulfill the promise of last year’s coalition.

For our part, we can promise that the next twelve months out here won’t be like the last twelve. Decent food and medical care, wages for work, educational opportunities and the like are ordinary human rights to which everybody is entitled. The Ordinary Peoples Society is ready to work with whoever is willing to advance the human rights of Georgia’s prisoners.”

Read the rest here

Georgia retaliates against prison striker, now on hunger strike

From: SF Bay View
by Hamim Abdullah Asadallah, aka Shawn Whatley
Oct 8th 2011
It’s been a while since I have written you due to retaliation by the staff here in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at Jackson State Prison in Jackson, Georgia. When the administration was served notice of the court date for the first lawsuit, a CERT (Certified Emergency Response Team) team was sent into my cell and began rambling through my legal documents and miscellaneous paperwork. Since they didn’t find what they were looking for, they were instructed to harass in other ways.

When this still didn’t provoke me, the administration decided to tamper with my incoming and outgoing mail and withholding legal mail for weeks. I notified my attorney, who emailed the warden and the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC). Then my mail was brought in a brown paper bag, at least 15 letters. Then the administration blocked all my phone numbers – again trying to provoke me with another form of retaliation and harassment. Still, I’m remaining steadfast, trusting in Allah (God).

What I’m writing at this time is that GDC officers are quitting. Here at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (GDCP) on weekends, sometimes there’s only five officers at the entire unit – with no officer in the dorm for hours, which violates their own policy, SOP IIB09-0001 segregation rights, which states that 30-minute security checks are supposed to be made, but they aren’t. This jeopardizes each inmate in lock-down.

However, if you attempt to utilize the grievance procedure, the grievance is intentionally discarded and the griever is moved to a disciplinary wing, all property taken, placed on strip-cell – no clothes, no blankets, no sheets, no mattress, nothing – and often times physically beaten, as just happened recently and then covered up with lies.

Inmates are suffering because of staff shortages. Showers are being denied, as are recreation yard call, cell sanitation etc. It’s not our fault staff are quitting because they too are tired of the injustices.

Recently two officers got into a fist fight against each other – in the dormitory – about a woman that both were indulging in. No disciplinary action was taken against them.

With all of the foolishness that’s going on, many of us are tired. Therefore there’s six of us here that started an indefinite hunger strike on Aug. 1, 2011, in solidarity with our brothers in California and to stop the inhumane treatment. A letter was sent to the Governor’s Office and Commissioner’s Office with a list of demands, such as provide adequate food, health care, access to families and out-of-cell recreation, stop police and staff brutality and many other requests.

In closing, we need your support and love just as we are sending ours.

Hamim Abdullah Asadallah, aka Shawn Whatley, participated in the historic Georgia prison strike, the largest prison strike in U.S. history, primarily protesting the Georgia practice of forcing prisoners to work for no wages whatsoever. He describes the conditions that gave rise to that strike in an interview that can be both heard and read at Send our brother some love and light: Shawn Whatley, 556484, GDCP-SMU LF-101, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233.


Georgia Dept of Corrections Withholding Medical Care to Brutalized Inmates, Retaliatory Campaign Continues

By Bruce A. Dixon

From the correspondence of their attorney and the testimony of their families and friends, details are emerging which indicate a still ongoing campaign of brutal beatings and withheld medical care in the wake of the December 2010 inmate strike in Georgia prisons. Does the fact that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has take charge of inquiries into the beatings confirm the suspicion of some that the Department of Corrections is not to be trusted with investigating itself? And is it time, as Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society suggests, for a thoroughgoing yearlong series of public hearings into all aspects of Georgia’s troubled prisons?

Is Georgia’s Dept of Corrections Withholding Medical Care To Beaten Prisoners as Part of Retaliatory Campaign After Dec 2010 Inmate Strike?
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

“ …correctional officers singled out Miguel Jackson and Kelvin Stevenson, handcuffing and savagely beating both inmates after a search of their cells.”

Has the Georgia Department of Corrections, in the wake of the inmate strike of December 2010 embarked on a campaign of brutal retaliation against inmates in its custody? Is the department deliberately withholding medical treatment to prisoners its officers have viciously assaulted? Is the removal of Smith Prison’s former warden, and apparent demotion to a superintendent of a probation facility connected with extensive ongoing investigations into prison abuse and potential corruption? Have the department’s own internal affairs investigators turned a blind eye to ongoing threats and beatings inflicted upon prisoners with the apparent blessings of their supervisors, leaving investigations of these allegations exclusively to the GBI? And is the Department of Corrections preparing to go before a pliant southeast Georgia grand jury, where prisons are one of the region’s major industries, in the hope of seeking pre-emptive indictments against prisoners to shield its officers and supervisors from civil or criminal prosecution?
The questions around Georgia’s Department of Corrections are piling up. Some of the answers, as well as fuel for brand new questions, are in the stream of correspondence and open records requests filed by Mario Williams of Williams Oinonen LLC, attorney for several of the brutalized inmates.

From portions of that correspondence we know that on December 31, the day after a team of citizen observers were admitted to Smith Prison to interview staff and inmates, correctional officers singled out Miguel Jackson and Kelvin Stevenson, handcuffing and savagely beating both inmates after a search of their cells. Smith suffered multiple indentations to his head, blunt trauma apparently inflicted with a hammer-like object resulting in weeks of severe untreated pain. Georgia Diagnostic officials placed Kelevin in max lock down with a broken jaw that the officials knew needed to be wired, yet, waited nearly three weeks to do so, and only wired Kelevin’s jaw after repeated letters from Mr. Stevenson’s attorney to DOC officials requesting that immediate action be taken. And it is clear that Miguel Jackson and Kelvin Stevenson sustained these injuries not during the search, but only after they had been removed in handcuffs from their cells.

We know that all the fruitful investigations and arrest warrants for guards thus far were conducted and sworn out not by the Department of Corrections’ internal affairs officers, but by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. And we understand that the former warden at Smith State prison has been inexplicably transferred and demoted.

We know that Kelvin Stevenson and Miguel Jackson were denied doctor visits, urgently needed examinations and access to their own medical records for weeks after the assault despite daily complaint of hearing and memory problems, as well as problems with vision and other dangerous symptoms. The correspondence also documents a series of dire and terroristic threats made on multiple occasions by Jackson State correctional officers. After his attorney’s repeated complaints to Ricky Myrick of DOC’s Internal Investigations Unit, one of the guards making said threats was finally transferred out of the wing, but no other action was taken against him. The correctional officer continues to incite other inmates against Miguel Jackson by spreading rumors that he is a snitch.

“ Founded by ex-offenders in Alabama, The Ordinary Peoples Society has worked with prisoners, their families and communities for more than ten years in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.”

“ Over the last three months the attorney for the prisoner’s families has had to send a daily stream of letters, faxes, phone calls and document requests, visits and other inquiries to uncover and address the denial of medical care to the beaten prisoners, along with the facts of their cases,” declared Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of TOPS, The Ordinary Peoples Society [8]. “The Department of Corrections has dragged its feet at every opportunity during this time. The fact that GBI has had to take charge of investigating the vicious assaults of correctional officers and their supervisors upon prisoners is a clear admission on the part of state government that the Department of Corrections is unable or unwilling to uphold the laws it’s supposed to enforce.

“ So later this year TOPS is taking the lead in convening a series of public hearings throughout the state in which we will examine the way Georgia’s prisons operate, and specifically look into the wave of beatings, retaliations and cover ups that followed the inmate strike of December 2010.”

TOPS seems eminently qualified to lead such a public inquiry. In the decade since its founding The Ordinary Peoples Society has stood with and for prisoners, their families and communities in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, both on the level of individual and collective self-help, as well as advocacy on the level of public policy and public education. TOPS is working closely with the attorney for the families of prisoners Miguel Jackson, Kelvin Stevenson, Terrance Dean [10], and other recent victims of unlawful violence on the part of Georgia correctional officers.

“ We found out about TOPS from talking to the families of other prisoners,” Delma Jackson, the wife of Miguel Jackson told Black Agenda Report. “They told us that TOPS would work with us and stand with us to get the justice we need, both in prison and afterward. If there’s no jobs or education there’s not much for those who come out of prison, no way for them to support families and build new lives.”

Read the rest here.

Seven prison guards arrested on charges of beating inmate

By Rhonda Cook
February 21, 2011

Seven Georgia prison guards were arrested Monday on charges of beating an inmate, inflicting injuries so severe that the prisoner was in the hospital for “an extended period of time,” according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead said the seven — Christopher Hall, Ronald Lach, Derrick, Wimbush, Willie Redden, Darren Douglass Griffin, Kerry Bolden and Delton Rushin — were arrested Monday morning when they reported to work at Macon State Prison. The facility is located in Oglethorpe, about 50 miles southwest of Macon.

All are charged with aggravated battery and violating their oaths of office.

At the request of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked to investigate allegations of incidents at Macon State Prison and Smith State Prisons on January 5, 2011.

“I appreciate the GBI’s swift response in investigating these allegations and assisting with the Department’s non-negotiable mission of protecting the public,” Owens said. “We have an obligation to protect the public and that includes staff and inmates.”

The GBI investigation began amid reports that guards attacked inmates at two state institutions – Macon State Prison and Smith State Prison near Savannah. The alleged assaults came at the end of a six-day protest and work stoppage at nearly a dozen facilities.

According to a newly formed advocacy group — the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights — inmates Terrance Dean and Miguel Jackson were “brutally beaten by guards” because they joined the protest. It was not clear which inmate was hospitalized but Dean is at the Augusta State Medical Prison, according to the Department of Corrections website.

Both men are serving 20-year sentences. Dean, born in 1981, was convicted in Bibb County for armed robberies in 2003 and 2004. Jackson, born in 1975, is at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson for several convictions, including armed robbery and aggravated assault.

Bankhead said  the  investigation was continuing.

“It’s not closed. We’re still investigating,” Bankhead said.

He did not know if more arrests were expected.

Inmates at 11 prisons began refusing to report to work details in early December. Four prisons responded with lock downs, which meant inmates could not make calls from the phones in the cell blocks, nor could they receive mail.

Please read the rest here.

–Staff writer Christian Boone contributed to this report.

Protest retaliation against Georgia prisoners

It is not the “Twitter Revolution” or the “Facebook Revolution”, but could it be the “Cellphone Revolution”? But the crackdown by those in power is merciless to those involved in a peaceful protest in the Georgia prisons of last December. We need to fill up Liberation Square in Georgia State quickly!

From: SF Bay View

by Mary Ratcliff, Feb 20, 2011

Georgia State Prison, Reidsville

If the military now running Egypt is as repressive as Mubarak, you know the Egyptians will be outraged. They won’t stand for it. Whenever we in the U.S. make a brave step forward … and are pushed back a couple of steps, we should be outraged too. And we should make some noise.

On Dec. 9, thousands of prisoners in Georgia – prisoners from different prisons, of different races, ages and religions – made a very brave step forward. They all sat down at once, demanding a living wage for work, education opportunities, decent health care, an end to cruel and unusual punishment, decent living conditions, nutritional meals, vocational and self-improvement opportunities, access to families and just parole decisions. (The full list of demands, in the prisoners’ words, is reprinted below.) It was the biggest prison strike in U.S. history.

Eight days later, the newly formed Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights met in Atlanta with Georgia prison officials, who, Bruce Dixon reported, told them they had “identified dozens of inmates whom they believed were leaders of the strike. They admitted confining these inmates to isolation and in some cases transferring them to other institutions.”

Miguel Jackson was reportedly attacked by about 20 guards at Smith State Prison and beaten with hammers. Eugene Thomas says several of the prisoners at Smith accused of organizing the Dec. 9 prison strike are now in the hole at Reidsville, though he hasn’t been able to contact them yet.

Now, over two months later, 37 of those confined are still missing – no news of where they are or how they are doing – and several cases of hideous retaliation have come to light, including that of Miguel Jackson, who was pepper sprayed, handcuffed and beaten with hammers, resulting in a fractured nose and 50 stitches to his face. Guards then tried to throw him over the railing from the second floor, his wife said.
On Jan. 11, a Georgia prisoner sent a text message to Zak Solomon of the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights, saying: “Since the beatings of inmates with hammers by corrections staff, another approach by staff is taking place. Instead of the staff themselves beating inmates, they are allowing the so called gang bangers and so called thugs to do it and then they compensate them in some fashion, as well as protect them from disciplinary action.”

Yesterday, legendary prisoner advocate Kiilu Nyasha received text messages from a Georgia prisoner whose close friend is Eugene Thomas, known to Bay View readers for a number of stories, most recently “Still no news of 37 missing Georgia prison strikers,” in which he wrote, “Reidsville, where we are, is hiding some of those brothers. This place has a history of hiding people, as they did Imam Jamil A. Al-Amin [the former H. Rap Brown] before transferring him to federal prison in Florence, Colorado.”

This photo, run on page 3 of the Bay View’s February print edition, along with his published stories, may have prompted retaliation against Eugene Thomas. From left are Israel Espinoza, Jamelle Tatum, Eugene Thomas and Quayshaun Adams. – Photo: Robert Broughton

Brother Eugene, his friend wrote to Kiilu, is the latest victim of retaliation.
“Dear sistah,” he wrote, ”This is Mabu from the Georgia prison movement. I am a close comrade of Bro. Eugene Thomas of Georgia State Prison [also known as Reidsville], who is a known activist for prisoners’ rights and a devout Muslim. This morning I received word that he and a 56-year-old inmate by the name of Willie Mosley had been locked down and placed in the hole for alleged exposure charges.

“Anyone who has been to Reidsville knows that there are steel doors that enclose one into the showers there. Brothers usually crack the large steel doors for two reasons: one, to place your clothes and towel on the outer corner of the door so they don’t get wet. And secondly, to be able to breathe amongst so much steam and heat in the shower.

“Now a white female officer by the name of Shannon Campbell has tried to slander the brothers’ character with such filthy accusations. These brothers have never had any history of such behavior and have a number of witnesses to prove them innocent. However, most prison infractions are judged at kangaroo courts within the system not by a group of the subjects’ peers but by the staff’s coworkers. All charges will be based on officer’s ‘factual statement.’
“It is no coincidence that Bro. Eugene is being framed up at such a time. He just recently wrote an inspiring piece for the SF Bay View and submitted images of prisoners in Reidsville enjoying the paper in a study group. This is merely Georgia prison authorities’ traditional form of retaliation by criminalizing consciousness.

“Please call Georgia State Prison to see that the brothers get a fair trial and all their witnesses are allowed to file statements on their behalf and show up on the assigned court date for testimony. Otherwise they could face a long isolation sentence, store and phone restriction. Please call (912) 557-7301. In the words of Che Guavara, ‘No one is free where others are oppressed!’”

Time to express our outrage

The time has come for us to express our outrage. The phone number provided by Mabu, (912) 557-7301, takes you to the office of Warden Bruce Chatman, whose appointment to that position took effect very recently, on Dec. 16, 2010. Tell him – or leave a message – that you are concerned about Eugene Thomas and Willie Mosley, that you suspect they are being falsely charged and that you want an immediate investigation.
Even more importantly, tell Warden Chatman that Eugene Thomas and all prisoners are entitled to the fundamental human right of free speech. Tell him that retaliation against a prisoner for speaking out is intolerable.

The Reidsville 3

In “Still no news of 37 missing Georgia prison strikers,” Eugene Thomas also wrote: “(W)e have a situation here where three young brothers, including my old cellmate, are being held for murder and robbery of an older white prisoner … These folks have been just holding these young brothers. They haven’t indicted neither one of them, haven’t fingerprinted either of them, aren’t giving them their proper segregation hearing — just holding them in lockup. It’s an interesting story, especially in light of everything taking place in Georgia now and with this place being a massive lockdown facility. They’ve been in the ‘hole’ now five months. I call them the ‘Reidsville 3.’”

Today, I got a call from the grandmother of one of those young men. Her grandson, Maurice C. Orr, is only 18 years old. After being placed in segregation – “the hole” – he was entitled by Georgia law to an informal hearing within 96 hours, a formal hearing with legal representation within 90 days and the opportunity to appeal the decision. Yet after six months, he has received none of that – no due process whatsoever.

Like the 37 missing men identified as leaders of the historic Dec. 9 prison strike and like Imam Jamil, the Reidsville 3 have been “hidden” by Georgia prison authorities. This is one of the practices that led to the prison strike.
“The hole” is a terrible place for anyone, especially an 18-year-old youngster like Maurice Orr, diagnosed as bipolar, who suffers from anxiety, claustrophobia and asthma – the asthma intensified by stifling heat and a lack of ventilation in the bowels of the old prison. He’s rarely allowed outdoors and is getting no medical or mental health care. Ironically, according to Wikipedia, Georgia State Prison’s Mental Health Program is a model for the federal prison system.
Maurice’s grandmother, who raised him and his brother since they were toddlers, says he is constantly being humiliated by the guards, who subject him to frequent strip searches. She believes they are trying to provoke him to violence, giving them an excuse to brutalize him.

“He’s got a good heart,” she says. “He’s a very good child. He’s smart. He can do ‘most everything. Whenever he’d get sick, I’d get sick. That’s how close we are.”

What we can and must do

Prison conditions are abominable all over the country, judging from the fistful of letters the Bay View receives every day from prisoners in every state. To a great extent, the current scourge of mass incarceration – the U.S., with 4.5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, is the world’s first prison state – is retaliation for the civil rights and Black power movements.

Too long have we tolerated this backsliding from the great advances of the ‘60s. When we are presented with a clear case of retaliation, we must protest.

Let’s begin by taking Zak Solomon’s advice: “After discussion with members and affiliates of the Concerned Coalition, it seems that the best response we can take at the moment is to call Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, at (404) 656-1776.
“Deal is an anti-immigrant former prosecutor and has little concern for the prisoners’ rights or their safety. Short of going out to Georgia, shutting down his phone lines appears to be the most effective way to let him know the world is watching.”

The governor is responsible for the wellbeing of all Georgia residents, including those who reside in its prisons, whether he likes them or not. We who do care about our brothers and sisters locked up in Georgia dungeons must convince him to stop hiding and brutalizing prisoners and instead to sit down with them to negotiate their righteous demands.

The prisoners accused of organizing the Dec. 9 prison strike “got shipped out of their home institutions and were dispersed across the state,” Ajamu Baraka, director of the U.S. Human Rights Network and a member of the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights, told the Final Call. Gov. Deal must be made to account for the whereabouts and the condition of each of them.

“Mr. Baraka said he feels one reason prison authorities moved to shut down the strike quickly was because it could serve as a possible model for prisoners across the country,” the Final Call reported. “But the outcome of the action in Georgia will determine whether there will be more and similar uprisings across the U.S., he predicted.”

Call Warden Chatman and Gov. Deal

Readers are urged to call

• Warden Bruce Chatman of Georgia State Prison at (912) 557-7301 concerning
o The apparently retaliatory segregation (transfer to “the hole”) of Eugene Thomas and Willie Mosley and
o The segregation and denial of due process to 18-year-old Maurice Orr and the others accused with him.
• Gov. Nathan Deal at (404) 656-1776 concerning
o The Dec. 9 prison strike demands and
o Hiding and retaliating against those accused of involvement in the Dec. 9 prison strike.

Readers are also encouraged to write words of encouragement to

• Eugene Thomas, 671488, Georgia State Prison, 2164 Georgia Highway 147, Reidsville, GA 30499, and
• Maurice Orr, 11199555, Georgia State Prison, 2164 Georgia Highway 147, Reidsville, GA 30499

The Dec. 9 prison strikers’ demands

A living wage for work: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC [Georgia Department of Corrections] demands prisoners work for free.
Educational opportunities: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
Decent health care: In violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.
An end to cruel and unusual punishment: In further violation of the Eighth Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
Decent living conditions: Georgia prisoners are confined in overcrowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.
Nutritional meals: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.
Vocational and self-improvement opportunities: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.
Access to families: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
Just parole decisions: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.

Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff can be reached at or (415) 671-0789. Other writings by Eugene Thomas published by the Bay View are “Georgia prisoners: Standing up by sitting down” and “Rallying, rioting, rebelling: Revolution.”

Block Report Radio on the Georgia Prison Strike

Minister of Information JR interviews long time Georgia prisoner Eugene Thomas about prison conditions that led up to the biggest prisoner strike in U.S. history, begun Dec. 9, 2010.
Click here to hear it!
 (scroll down please)

Still no news of 37 missing Georgia prison strikers

From: SF Bay View
Feb 19th 2011

by Eugene Thomas

We still haven’t heard of who and where are those 37 Georgia prisoners who were labeled the leaders and organizers of the sit-down strike that began Dec. 9. But we do know that there are some prisoners from Smith State Prison here being harassed for participating in the protest. I haven’t been able to get to the lock-down unit where they are being held.

Reidsville, where we are, is hiding some of those brothers. This place has a history of hiding people, as they did Imam Jamil A. Al-Amin before transferring him to federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

Along with that, we have a situation here where three young brothers, including my old cellmate, are being held for murder and robbery of an older white prisoner, who occupied the bunk I slept in after I was put in the “hole.” These folks have been just holding these young brothers. They haven’t indicted neither one of them, haven’t fingerprinted either of them, aren’t giving them their proper segregation hearing — just holding them in lockup. It’s an interesting story, especially in light of everything taking place in Georgia now and with this place being a massive lockdown facility. They’ve been in the “hole” now five months. I call them the “Reidsville 3.”

Statement of support and solidarity for the Lucasville Brothers

With the name of G’d, the Beneficent, the Merciful, on behalf of the prisoners here in the state of Georgia struggling and striving for human and civil rights, we lend our spirits, hearts and minds to you all, and we send our support and solidarity equally.

Your struggle is our struggle, your fight is our fight, your plight is our plight. We are with you, against any and all that oppose you, come what may — hell or highwater!

Send our brother some love and light. Write to: Eugene Thomas, 671488, Georgia State Prison, 2164 Georgia Highway 147, Reidsville, GA 30499.

Revolutionary salute to the Georgia prison strikers

by Siddique Abdullah Hasan
I have a lot of articles and emails on the strike in Georgia. Wow! It was a complete display of solidarity that unsettled the prisoncrats and has created much discussion among the convicts.

I was born and raised in Georgia, did five years in prison there, have some family and comrades currently doing time there, so I know first hand how foul these hillbillies can be.

One of my relatives is Troy Anthony Davis [on death row in Georgia – see]. His is my paternal first cousin.

Hasan, who wrote this in a postcard to the Bay View, is one of the Lucasville prisoners in Ohio who went on hunger strike beginning Jan. 3. Send him some love and light: Siddique Abdullah Hasan, R 130-559, P.O. Box 1436, Youngstown OH 44501.

Seven prison guards suspended after allegations of retaliatory beatings following strike

Atlanta Journal Constitution
Friday, January 21, 2011
By Joel Anderson

The Georgia Department of Corrections announced Friday that it was suspending seven prison guards with pay pending an investigation into allegations of inmate abuse at the Macon State Prison.

The suspensions stem from accusations that corrections officers beat prisoners on Dec. 16 as retaliation for a six-day work stoppage. Prisoners had been protesting conditions and the lack of pay for the jobs they perform around the institutions and for local governments.

Soon after, relatives and advocates said officers retaliated with violence against prisoners who participated in the protests, particularly at the Macon and Smith prisons.

Earlier this month, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it would open an investigation into allegations.

Thanks to the Real Cost of Prisons blog

Concern rises about inmates allegedly beaten by guards in Georgia strike and mistreatment of prisoners detained in institutions across the country

SF Bay View, Jan 10th, 2011

by Charlene Muhammad and Starla Muhammad, Final Call Staff Writers

(photo) In retaliation for organizing the Georgia prison strike, Miguel Jackson was pepper sprayed, handcuffed and beaten with hammers, resulting in a fractured nose and 50 stitches to his face, and guards tried to throw him over the railing from the second floor, his wife said. – Photo courtesy of the Final Call.

( – Like thousands of inmates scattered in prisons across the state of Georgia, Terrance Bryant Dean participated in an eight-day peaceful protest to highlight inhumane conditions in the prisons.

Days later he was brutally beaten by guards at Macon State Prison, his family and a coalition of supporters charge.

When his mother, Willie Maude Dean, and members of the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights attempted to visit him at the Atlanta Medical Center on Dec. 31, the hospital claimed her son was no longer there and the corrections department claimed he was moved to Jackson State Prison the night before, according to an alert The Final Call received from coalition co-chair Elaine Brown.

Ms. Brown said the coalition found out about the beating during its second fact-finding visit to Smith State Prison on Dec. 30. Its first prison visit was to Macon on Dec. 20.The coalition asserts the beating was in retaliation for the protest, which began in early December.

In addition, Ms. Dean said the Georgia Department of Corrections has given no information about her son’s condition or his whereabouts.

The mother told coalition leaders after their latest visit that Macon State Warden Gregory McLaughlin told her that Terrance was in an isolation cell, but the mother believes he was already in the hospital.

The family of a second inmate, Miguel Jackson, alleges he was severely beaten by upwards of 20 guards Dec. 31 during what is called a “shakedown” at Smith State Prison near Glennville, Ga. in which corrections officers search prisoners’ cells. Upon finding nothing, said Mrs. Delma Jackson, Miguel’s wife, the officers accused Mr. Jackson of having “something.” Mr. Jackson was pepper sprayed, handcuffed and beaten repeatedly with hammers resulting in a fractured nose and 50 stitches to his face, said Mrs. Jackson. Guards also attempted to throw him over the railing from the second floor, she said.

And because the family has not been allowed to see him, his wife said they worry whether or not he may have a concussion or internal injuries. Upon seeing pictures of her husband, Mrs. Jackson said she and other family members drove New Year’s Day three and a half hours from Atlanta to check on his status.

Their visit was denied by corrections personnel, she said. This was after the family waited 90 minutes to be given a sheet to fill out, requesting a visit. “We didn’t even want to sit there and visit, we just wanted to see that he was okay and they denied us that right,” Mrs. Jackson told The Final Call.
When she asked prison officials why visitation was denied, all officials said was that there was an “incident” and the only one authorized to approve a visit would be the warden, who was not there, Mrs. Jackson continued. Mrs. Jackson said her husband’s fractured nose as of Jan. 3 still had not been reset and she worried the violent encounter will affect him psychologically.

She was upset that the prison still had not contacted her or the family about whether Mr. Jackson was in the infirmary with injuries. “That is our loved one, he’s a human being and they’re treating him like an animal,” she said.

“That is our loved one, he’s a human being and theyre treating him like an animal.” Mrs. Delma Jackson, Miguel’s wife

At press time, The Final Call was awaiting a reply to its voice message request for an interview with the Department of Corrections’ Public Affairs Office. The latest update on its web page is dated Dec. 15 and indicates that four facilities had returned to normal operations.

The prisoners’ strike included Hays, Smith, Telfair and Macon State Prisons and other facilities. Inside the institutions, inmates refused to come out of their cells to petition officials to be paid for work – given that they must pay for medical services – better medical care and better quality food, more self-improvement and educational programs, consistent disciplinary policies and a clear parole policy.

Coalition spokespersons said that beating occurred around the same time it was negotiating access to certain prisons to investigate conditions. And even as the delegation visited Macon State, the corrections department was apparently covering up the inmate’s reported retaliatory beating by several CERT (Correctional Emergency Response Team) members.
Witnesses reported to the coalition that CERT officers restrained Terrance Dean after an alleged dispute with a guard, dragged him from his cell in handcuffs and leg irons, removed him to the prison gym and beat him unconscious.

The beating remained unreported by corrections officials even though the coalition specifically raised questions about reports of retaliatory beatings, said the group. Questions were also asked about the status and whereabouts of 37 – or more – men the corrections department identified as strike “conspirators,” the coalition said.

The coalition formed to help support the prisoners’ calls for reform and includes the NAACP, the Nation of Islam, the ACLU of Georgia, the U.S. Human Rights Network, All of Us or None and The Ordinary People Society. Among other concerns is the potential cover up of an attempted murder.
“This agenda just got jumped up 10,000 times, not by us, but by them, these men who are suffering inside these walls. They’re the spark that lit the prairie fire and hopefully we who are on the outside that have united around their particular interests in Georgia can keep this going. The coalition has attracted a lot of people but the interesting thing is where in the hell is John Lewis? The coalition is growing but absent in any kind of way is the Congressional Black Caucus,” Ms. Brown said, referring to Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., and other federal lawmakers.

She told The Final Call that few political officials from Georgia have addressed the issue. But state lawmaker Roberta Abdul Salaam has been very supportive, said coalition leaders. The coalition has reached out to CBC Chair Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Rep. Lewis but have not received a response, said Ms. Brown.

“Everybody else in the world has come in without us sending a message to them, but not them. Where is the CBC? These men are their constituents, especially John Lewis, Tyrone Brooks (a state representative), and other Black leaders in Georgia,” asked Ms. Brown.

“We need them to do something: Bring the federal government in on behalf of these men … This is a disgrace that these people came into office on the blood of our people like Fannie Lou Hamer, who gave up her eye and her life … The duty of Black elected officials here is clear and they have failed to do their duty to these men and address this question. And I’m saying they should come on back home before we have to start talking about what we’re doing about their failure,” Ms. Brown said. Ed DuBose, head of the Georgia state NAACP, is co-chair of the coalition.

Coalition: Inmates complained of retaliation after peaceful strike

(photo) This unnamed prisoner in Georgia’s Smith State Prison was also beaten by guards. – Photo courtesy of Final Call

“They (inmates) got shipped out of their home institutions and were dispersed across the state. We think that they were primarily dispersed into two facilities but we have not had access to them yet,” said Ajamu Baraka, director of the U.S. Human Rights Network and a member of the delegation that visited Smith State Prison.

He said, “Among information received was that prisons only fed the inmates bologna sandwiches for six days – all to break the back of the strike. And then they released everybody and announced to the world that everything was fine. But the information we got was that the inmates understand that they struck a blow for their rights (and) that they may have to strike again to make sure that people understand how serious this situation really is,” Mr. Baraka told The Final Call.

After the visit, he said, the coalition’s concerns over conditions grew, particularly since Macon was supposed to be a model facility. For example, he said, “the hole” or isolation units, consist of 7-by-12-foot cells and inmates are double bunked in them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although inmates are supposed to get an hour out for recreation, the delegation learned that they hardly ever do for months at a time, Mr. Baraka added.
Mr. Baraka said he feels one reason prison authorities moved to shut down the strike quickly was because it could serve as a possible model for prisoners across the country.

But the outcome of the action in Georgia will determine whether there will be more and similar uprisings across the U.S., he predicted.
“The conditions in these prisons across the country are such that it’s amazing that we haven’t had more explosive situations or strikes, because you have overcrowding, brutality, neglect and the inability of prisoners to address these issues because of the Prison Reform Litigation Act passed by the Clinton administration, which has made it difficult for you to go to court to try to get the judiciary to intervene to deal with these inhumane conditions,” Mr. Baraka continued.

According to legal analysts, former President Bill Clinton passed the Prison Reform Litigation Act in 1996 to combat frivolous lawsuits brought by prisoners in an effort to unclog an already back-logged U.S. judicial system.
But Human Rights Watch said the federal law should be amended because it denies prisoners equal access to justice by singling out their lawsuits for burdens and restrictions that apply to no one else.

Racially biased policies and the prison economy

All of these issues are part of the larger problem with having a prison economy, said attorney Michelle Alexander, a civil rights advocate and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
She told The Final Call she doesn’t believe profit was the primary motive for the drug war and mass incarceration at the outset.
Nonetheless, the numbers are daunting. In 2007, nearly 2.3 million people were locked up in U.S. prisons, the highest incarceration rate in the world. Nearly 1 million Black men and women are incarcerated, 41 percent of total inmates.

According to criminal justice statistics by the NAACP, Blacks are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of Whites; one in six Black men had been incarcerated as of 2001; and one in 100 Black women is currently in prison. The U.S. is five percent of the world population yet has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, according to an NAACP fact sheet.

This mass incarceration comes out of racial politics stirred up by the Republican Party, attorney Alexander argued. Essentially, she said, the GOP exploited the fears and anxieties of poor working class Whites by launching a movement promising to “get tough” on “those people” and built a campaign around crime and welfare to mobilize poor and working class White voters to defect from the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party in droves.
“But now that the war on drugs and mass incarceration has gained such steam, there’s a whole range of interests that has found that they can profit from caging human beings. And it’s not just the private prison companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but it’s a whole range of corporate interests,” she said.

“You know, taser gun manufacturers, phone companies that gouge prisoners and their families, the private health care providers that provide typically abysmal health care to prisoners, and prison guard unions,” all of whom now lobby for harsh criminal justice policies to try to ensure their profits and jobs will continue for a foreseeable future, attorney Alexander said.
Back in the day, prisons used to have their stock prices posted in the front of the facilities, because guards had employee stock options, according to Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News and president of the Private Corrections Institute, a non-profit advocacy group that opposes the privatization of prisons. He spoke of his past experience of 10 years of incarceration.

“When the guards came into work, they could see how well the company was doing … so they had a vested interest to make sure that the company did well, so that meant cutting back on costs. So if you had to screw prisoners out of something or remove something from them to save money and increase your bottom line, that’s what you would do. …

“It went along the lines of a for-profit industry, you know, ‘These are little money signs, just $45 a day per diem that we make for keeping them in prison, so it’s not really a person, just a number with a dollar sign in front of it,’” Mr. Friedmann said.

But soon employee morale suffered when the stock spiraled downward and people came to work only to find out that their entire savings had been wiped out, he said.
Mr. Friedmann echoed attorney Alexander’s sentiments that the correctional system exploded in the 1980s, and after the military industrial complex went downhill, the prison industrial complex arose. Security resources, law enforcement and military got funneled into the war on drugs and crime rose. But it’s really a war on Americans, citizens accused of crime and recreational drug use, he asserted.

“Our justice system is not only racially skewed but more so it’s class-based. Prison Legal News approaches it from the standpoint that the criminal justice system is primarily management for poor America. … You don’t see a lot of rich people because we have a two-tiered justice system: The poor go to prison and the rich tend to get drug treatment or probation or home confinement or GPS monitoring or something else,” Mr. Friedmann said.

The poor go to prison and the rich tend to get drug treatment or probation or home confinement or GPS monitoring or something else.” Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News

The problem, say civil and human rights activists, amounts to a systematic pattern of over-incarceration that needs to be addressed, particularly since more than half of the millions of people in U.S. prisons are non-violent offenders. Chara Fisher Jackson, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, says the issues of prison overcrowding, lack of access to health care, inhumane treatment and other abuses are happening nationwide, but people have a right to basic human rights regardless of their circumstances.

Alternatives to expensive incarceration

Inmate advocates argue that the nearly $70 billion being spent nationally on corrections each year could be better used on non-vengeful alternatives, like drug treatment and programs that are mental-health focused. But instead of a rehabilitative approach, the country takes a retributive one that requires not an eye for an eye, but an eye and 20 years to life, Mr. Friedmann said.
He cited home monitoring, work service, day fines, split confinement, like weekends in jail or work days and evenings in jail as a few alternative solutions.

The main thing that people need to see is that prisoners are human beings and 95 percent of them will be re-entering their communities, he said.

The options are people who have been abused, degraded, humiliated and treated like slaves or people that have been helped, rehabilitated and served through programs, the prison reform advocate continued.

“I think that would be a simple solution, but not for our country,” he said.
Nathaniel Ali, executive director of the inmate and ex-offender education and resource advocacy group National Association of Brothers and Sisters In & Out of Prison, asserted that problems highlighted by the Georgia inmates exist in institutions nationwide.

These conditions are a continuation of policies tied to economics and “slaveocracy” – prisons profiting off the backs of inmates and their families.
There is a real connection to maintaining poverty through the prison industrial complex, said Mr. Ali. Excessive charges by phone companies for telephone calls are just one example, he added.

Phone calls, price gouging and family suffering

Activists added though prisons scoff at and punish prisoners for using cell phones, the system generated the need for phones because of price gouging for calls and denying inmates access to their families.

“The excessive charges for telephone calls has been an issue for years but now companies are beginning to diversify because there is money to be made,” but not just by MCI, Mr. Ali said.

“What is happening is larger companies are subcontracting with smaller companies who are in turn also billing telephone calls. So in essence, inmates and their families are being double billed for one phone call. If the first minute is $3 and something then it’s going to end up being $6 and something …. Companies are cashing in with the digital technology with what they know is going to be profitable, which is the inmates wanting to hear somebody’s voice on the other end of the line,” he said.

“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said, ‘Justice is a human need; therefore justice is a human right,’” said Nation of Islam Student Prison Reform Minister Abdullah Muhammad.

He said the needs and rights of families are critical. “The high prices for phone calls cause some family members to block calls from jails and prisons, which can negatively affect family relations. And anything that disrupts family or is against the general welfare of the family is therefore against the aim and purpose of God and creation,” Minister Muhammad said.

According to, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization, an inmate may open an account with the telephone company and give them money in advance. However, in that instance the prisoner pays about $6.16 for a 15-minute conversation. Comparable service for persons not in prison costs about 75 cents.

“Somebody’s getting rich on the backs of prisoners and their families,” notes the site. goes on to note that for collect telephone calls, the inmate’s family must pay about $7 for a 15-minute conversation. If the phone call is disconnected before the allotted time, reconnection fees may apply.
For inmates, who in some cases make as little as $20 to $30 per month, a 30-minute telephone call to a loved one may cost half a month’s wages.

This story first appeared in the Final Call, at