*(Atlanta, GA) – The NAACP announced today that it has contacted the U.S. Justice Department through its Civil Rights Division to urge swift federal intervention, under the authority granted them under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq),to ensure that the civil rights of Georgia State inmates are protected as they continue their hunger strike to demonstrate the deplorable conditions throughout Georgia facilities.
This call to the U.S. Justice Department is in response to the reaction by prison officials to prisoners’ peaceful hunger strike and other peaceful demonstrations to protest the troubling conditions that began on December 9, 2010. According to reports from prisoners’ advocates, the prisoners have been refusing to leave their cells or perform their jobs.
They are petitioning the DOC for pay for their work, better educational opportunities, improved health care and nutritional meals, improved access to their families, a halt to cruel and unusual punishments, and fair parole decisions.
Though the protest has reportedly remained non-violent, guards have allegedly used violent measures to force the men back to work. Prisoners report that at the Augusta State Prison, several inmates were ripped from their cells by CERT Team guards and beaten, resulting in broken ribs.
‘At Telfair, the Tactical Squad roughed up prisoners and destroyed all their property. At Macon and Hays State Prisons, Tactical Squads have menaced the men for days, removing some to the “hole,” and the wardens turned off heat and hot water.
“We are asking for involvement from the Department of Justice to ensure that the civil rights of these prisoners are protected,” stated NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “It is essential that the Georgia state prison system find a peaceful resolution to this non-violent work stoppage. The inmates’ requests for educational opportunities, pay for their work and access to their families are not unreasonable. Providing these opportunities can help reduce recidivism and ensure that people who have paid their debt to society can return to their communities and become responsible citizens.”
Yesterday, NAACP Georgia State Conference President Edward Dubose held a press conference with the newly formed Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights. Speaking at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Dubose urged Governor Sonny Perdue and Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens to cease and desist from using violent tactics to force the prisoners to work and address the legitimate complaints raised by prisoner advocates.
“The Georgia State Conference of the NAACP is calling for a complete and detailed investigation of the allegations of abuse of inmates in Georgia prisons,” stated Georgia State Conference President Edward Dubose. “We look to the Commissioner of Corrections and the Governor of Georgia as well as the United States Justice Department to investigate the hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints from inmates in the prison system. We applaud the peaceful and non-violent protest used by inmates in Georgia prisons in their efforts to raise awareness of the alleged violations of their human rights. Even prisoners have a right not to be treated like animals. I applaud the first step by Mr. Derrick Scofield, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, in committing to scheduling a meeting between Mr. Brian Owens, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, the Georgia State Conference NAACP and the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
Leila McDowell – NAACP