Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘georgia

Updates on the Georgia Prison Strike

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The Georgia prison strike appears to remain ongoing, with my old hometown paper the Atlanta Journal-Constitution now picking up the story (though not actually using the word “strike”). Here’s coverage from the Chattanooga Free Press, with this response from a Georgia state legislator:

“If they want to get paid, they shouldn’t commit crimes,” said state Sen. Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, chairman of the Senate Institutions and Property Committee, which oversees prisons.

Besides, he said, “If we started paying inmates, we’d also start charging them for room and board, as well. They ought to be careful what they ask for.”

The Free Press article notes that while Georgia does not pay anything for inmate labor, its neighboring state of Tennessee pays between 17 cents and 54 cents an hour. If you want to write to Sen. Grant about his implication that it doesn’t matter how prisoners are treated since they’ve committed crimes, here’s his contact info. Finally, here’s this morning’s Democracy Now! interview with Elaine Brown (which I haven’t had a chance to listen to myself, but pass along in case you’re interested).

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December 14, 2010 at 9:49 am

Georgia Prisoners Strike for Better Conditions

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The Black Agenda Report, a Georgia-based news site “from the black left,” reported on Saturday that inmates were on Day 2 of a strike (mirrored here at Open Left):

Inmate families and other sources claim that when thousands of prisoners remained in their cells Thursday, authorities responded with violence and intimidation. Tactical officers rampaged through Telfair State Prison destroying inmate personal effects and severely beating at least six prisoners. Inmates in Macon State Prison say authorities cut the prisoners’ hot water, and at Telfair the administration shut off heat Thursday when daytime temperatures were in the 30s. Prisoners responded by screening their cells with blankets, keeping prison authorities from performing an accurate count, a crucial aspect of prison operations.

Although there were some reports of a “media blackout,” the New York Times did report on the strike, here (online only) and here (online and page A13 of yesterday’s newspaper) (and picked up by Slate here), emphasizing the use of cell phones and social networking to coordinate the strike. However, most local news outlets reported, via the Georgia Department of Corrections, that the prisoners were not on strike, but rather had been placed on lockdown to pre-empt the strike. Examples of local Georgia coverage portraying the weekend’s events as a lockdown are here at the Rome News-Tribune, here from the AP, here from Atlanta’s WSB-TV, and here from Georgia Public Broadcasting.

With about 52,000 inmates, Georgia’s prison system is not among the largest in the country in absolute numbers. But relative to the state’s population, it has an outsize reach. In Georgia, 1 in 13 adults is either in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole — the highest rate of correctional control in the country. (Nationwide that figure is 1 in 31.) According to the Sentencing Project, over 4% of Georgia adults and almost 10% of African-Americans cannot vote due to felony disenfranchisement laws. The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights has been a leading advocate for prisoners in Georgia and its neighboring states.

A few more links and the prisoners’ complete list of demands after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

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December 13, 2010 at 10:45 am

Interview with a Prisoners’ Rights Attorney

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StoryCorps Atlanta has an interview between two staff members at the Southern Center for Human Rights: staff attorney Melanie Velez, who has worked on prison overcrowding and abuse cases in Georgia and Alabama, and social worker Vivianne Guevara. It’s only about 3 minutes — worth a quick listen!

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September 29, 2010 at 8:12 am

The Looming Crisis in Our Nation’s Prisons: Aging Inmates

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This local article on the rising number of elderly prisoners in Georgia’s prisons highlights an impending crisis for our nation’s prisons (and you thought we already had a crisis!). In recent decades, states have imposed lengthier and stiffer sentences even as parole boards in many states have all but stopped granting parole (see my earlier posts on Michigan and Virginia). Around the country, men and women who were sentenced to very long prison terms in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are starting to reach their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s. Many of our nation’s prisons are ill-equipped to care for young, healthy people, much less the aging and infirm — and considering that prison life itself can exacerbate physical and mental health conditions, it seems like a safe assumption that after 20 or 30 years of life behind bars our aging prisoners are going to require extraordinary outlays, and/or be subject to extraordinary suffering. Already in California, medical care for the state’s 21 sickest prisoners costs an estimated $40 million per year — some of which goes simply to paying the salaries of guards who watch over them 24/7 while they are in the hospital.

I don’t have any idea how states that have been particularly enamored of LWOP and three strikes laws and the rest plan to deal with this problem in coming years. I’d guess the states don’t have any idea, either. In Georgia at least, as the article notes, the state does have something of a safety valve for dealing with its aging prison population, should its prison bureaucracy decide to make use of it:

Georgia’s Constitution empowers the Board of Pardons and Paroles to release any prisoner older than 62 or a younger one who is “entirely incapacitated.” The definition of incapacitated, though, is subject to interpretation.

“Georgia could apply an expansive definition of who is eligible,” said Melanie Velez, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights. “There is a growing number of people who would not pose a threat to society.”

The Journalistic Trope of Comparing Jails to Hotels

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Sometimes journalists who cover jails, prisons, immigration detention centers, etc. spice up their ledes by making some imagined comparison to hotel amenities. In fairness, their sources who are also fond of the comparison (see, e.g., this post). Anyway, here’s an example from today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

New menus. Redesigned living areas. Bingo nights. Dance classes. Continental breakfasts. Self-serve beverage bars.

These aren’t features of some swanky new hotel. They are among a host of new amenities that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is considering at two immigration detention facilities in Georgia.

I would really like to see a moratorium on this trope. It’s somewhat offensive and virtually always inaccurate. This article refers to eight private immigration jails run by Corrections Corporation of America that are due to be redesigned. Whatever the new amenities after the renovations, I can pretty much guarantee they will not resemble “swanky new hotels.” Hotels typically aren’t surrounded by concertina wire. And I’ve known some swanky people in my time and they do not typically build their travel itineraries around where they can get bingo and self-serve lemonade.

At most, the redesigned CCA facilities will resemble prisons somewhat less than they do now. This makes some people angry. But note: Read the rest of this entry »

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July 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Oregon to Deport Selected Nonviolent Offenders in Exchange for Early Release

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The Corvallis Gazette-Times reports that Oregon’s new inmate deportation program is off to a start, albeit a slow one. The program applies only to inmates who are in the U.S. illegally, have less than six months left on their sentences, and have been convicted for certain nonviolent crimes, such as drugs or theft:

The state hopes to save more than $2 million over the current two-year budget cycle by sending the inmates back to their home countries, in Oregon’s case, mostly to Mexico.

The savings from the early deportation program were expected to begin shortly after it was approved by the Legislature last year. But a legal glitch delayed finalizing the agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, until January.

Oregon Department of Corrections officials said the program is now under way, with about a dozen inmates already handed over to ICE for deportation.

Prisoners waive their rights to challenge the deportation in exchange for commutation of their sentence by the governor and early release. They also face tough penalties if they return illegally.

Only a handful of other states have similar programs, but most have saved money.

New York has saved about $152 million since 1995 with its version of the program, while Arizona has saved more than $33 million since 2005, immigration officials said.

Georgia has reported the most successful program so far, removing more than 3,600 illegal immigrant inmates from October 2008 through August 2009 for an estimated savings of $204 million.

However — as the article also notes, and as the Boston Globe reported a few weeks ago, a similar program in Rhode Island has yet to result in a single deportation, because of the program’s strict criteria combined with the small number of illegal immigrants in Rhode Island prisons.

Written by sara

February 6, 2010 at 7:22 am

RIP Judge Anthony Alaimo, “Hero” of the Georgia Federal Bench

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When I was researching an earlier post on Judge Morris Lasker, who oversaw prison reform litigation in the Southern District of New York, I came across this obituary of Judge Anthony Alaimo of the Southern District of Georgia, who also died late last year. Like Judge Lasker, Judge Alaimo oversaw litigation in the 1970s to reform squalid conditions in a local penal institution in his district. In Judge Alaimo’s case, the jail in question was the notorious Georgia State Prison at Reidsville, where

Alaimo found racial violence and almost routine stabbings, rats in the prison’s hallways, standing waste water in the cell blocks and sewer lines hooked into the drinking water. More than 3,000 inmates were crammed into a prison that should have held only 1,000.

A Georgia lawyer shared his admiration for Judge Alaimo with the Jacksonville Times-Union:

“Judge Alaimo was my hero,” said lawyer Douglas Alexander, who as a Georgia Legal Services lawyer worked on a federal suit over conditions at the state prison at Reidsville and others in county jails.

“Having been a prisoner of war, he certainly knew what it was like to be a prisoner,” Alexander said.

Fittingly, there’s a recent biography of Judge Alaimo available from Mercer University Press, subtitled (what else) “American Hero.”

Written by sara

January 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

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