Georgia to Investigate Reports of Prisoner Abuse

The news comes weeks after inmates used cell phones to stage massive work stoppages.

By Julianne Hing Jan 07, 2011

On Thursday the Georgia Department of Corrections announced the Bureau of Investigations will look into allegations of retaliatory prisoner abuse following a fact-finding delegation’s visits to two state prisons, Georgia’s NBC affiliate reported.

"Commissioner Brian Owens has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in the investigation and analysis of a use of force which occurred at Macon State Prison on December 16, 2010, as well as an alleged use of force at Smith State Prison on December 31, 2010," the Department of Corrections said in a statement. "The Department of Corrections will continue our non-negotiable mission of protecting and serving the public."

Yesterday, the Georgia state chapter of the NAACP sent a letter to Georgia state officials and the Department of Corrections demanding the state address reports of retaliatory abuse.

"We were also further reinforcing the demands of the prisoners for their basic human rights and other issues that need to be addressed," Georgia NAACP president Edward DuBose said. "We also used it as an opportunity to say that the incoming governor and the leadership of the Department of Corrections have an opportunity to get it right."

DuBose said that on two prison visits last year, a seven-person delegation had "complete access to speak with inmates randomly" and in the course of more than 100 interviews heard reports of harsh conditions and inadequate nutrition and health care. Prisoners were constantly hit with fines ranging from $5 to $20, DuBose said prisoners reported, sometimes for even just "looking at a guard." DuBose said the fines were particularly egregious, especially because many Georgia prisoners are already destitute, and unlike other states are not paid for the labor they do while in prison. DuBose said prisoners also complained about poor health care and depending on a person’s sentence, the inability to pursue a GED while in prison.

"If prison is about rehabilitation rather than just punishment then it would be in the state of Georgia and the Department of Corrections’ interest to make sure these prisoners are prepared to re-enter society," DuBose said.

The Georgia Department of Corrections has not said it will change conditions in the prisons and denied the allegations of abuse.