NAACP: Georgia Prison Guards Beat Inmates in Retaliatory Violence

New reports surface weeks after inmates staged massive strikes at four Georgia prisons.

By Julianne Hing Jan 04, 2011

At least three inmates at two Georgia prisons were severely beaten by prison guards as a measure of retaliatory abuse, the NAACP of Georgia charges. The alleged beatings followed prison visits by a delegation of civil rights advocates, which came on the heels of an inmate strike that drew national headlines last month. 

One inmate at Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe, Ga., sustained injuries to the back of his head and spent several days in the intensive care unit, said Edward DuBose, the president of the Georgia state chapter of the NAACP. DuBose said that the NAACP had received reports and cell phone photos of two Smith State Prison inmates whose bloodied, bruised faces confirmed reports of violence there.

DuBose told Colorlines the incidents happened immediately after he and other prisoner rights advocates visited Macon State Prison on Dec. 20 and Smith State Prison on Dec. 30. "It’s ironic that after each visit we received information that an inmate was beaten the very next day by prison guards," DuBose said. "There’s a clear message the guards are sending to inmates about speaking out and we’re trying to get to the bottom of this."

DuBose said that prison officials at Macon State Prison allowed family to meet with the abused inmate from Macon after he was released from the hospital, but that Smith prison officials had not let anyone have contact with the two abused inmates there. "We were able to see [photos of] their injuries, they had facial injuries and you can see knobs, protruding knobs, on their faces," DuBose said.

The inmates who were allegedly beaten up did not speak with the fact-finding delegation when it visited, DuBose said. The Smith prisoners, who advocates say have since been secreted away by prison officials, were thought to be organizers of the multi-prison strike that took place in December, though.

During that strike, inmates in at least four Georgia prisons stayed in their cells for almost a week and refused to report for work duty. They were protesting overcrowding and inhumane conditions in the prisons and called for better nutrition and health care, access to educational resources and fair compensation for their work. At the time, Elaine Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party, whose newly formed Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights has advocated for the Georgia inmates, said that inmates reported being beaten up by prison guards as punishment. Brown said that inmates also had their hot water and heat turned off during the strike. Hays State Prison in Trion, Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe, Telfair State Prison in Helena, and Smith State Prison in Glennville were all locked down by prison officials for days.

The fact-finding delegation was able to confirm many of these grievances, said DuBose. The organizations plan to release a report of their findings. DuBose said the NAACP was also in talks with the Department of Justice and would be sending its findings to the Georgia state legislature’s judiciary committee for further investigation. 

"The magnitude of the abuse by the guards warrants an intervention by the federal government," said DuBose, adding that "the information we have gathered suggests that the Department of Corrections should rethink what’s happening in its prisons and join us in engaging in prison reform."

"We are a law enforcement agency and do everything possible to uphold, not break, laws," the Georgia Department of Corrections said, the New York Times reported.