Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘southern center for human rights

Georgia Prison Guards Settle Lawsuit over Alleged Beatings for $93,000

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Georgia prison guards accused of beating four inmates have agreed to pay $93,000 to settle a federal lawsuit over the allegations. The Chattanooga Times Free-Press reports:

“We think this recognizes that there is a problem with excessive force at Hays State Prison,” said Atteeyah Hollie, an attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The Atlanta-based human rights group filed the civil lawsuit in July in federal court in Rome, Ga., on behalf of four inmates. The inmates claim they were beaten when officers responded to a fight in a nearby prison cell in August 2010.


Georgia Department of Corrections officials said they were reviewing questions from the Times Free Press about the suit, but didn’t have a response by Friday afternoon.

This is the second time the human rights group has sued the maximum security prison in Trion, Ga., alleging excessive force. A suit was settled in 1997 on behalf of 14 men who claimed they were beaten without reason.

More on the settlement here, from the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights.

SCHR Files Lawsuit over Beatings of Handcuffed Prisoners in Georgia Prison

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The Southern Center for Human Rights has filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of four men who allege they were beaten by prison guards at Georgia’s Hays State Prison while handcuffed. You can download the full complaint here (PDF). Here, quoted from the complaint, are the plaintiffs’ core allegations:

3. While handcuffed, Plaintiff Nwakanma was punched, stomped on, kicked in the groin and in the face, struck with a flashlight, hit with batons, and beaten until he was unconscious. While handcuffed, Plaintiff Spencer was punched, kicked, and beaten with a baton-like instrument until he vomited and lost consciousness. While Plaintiff Towns was handcuffed, officers kicked him in the head, beat him with a baton on his bare feet, and struck him with a baton in the head until he was unconscious. While handcuffed, Plaintiff Haines was punched, kneed in the face, and kicked in the face. At no time did any Plaintiff offer any resistance or do or fail to do any act that justified the use of force.

4. As a result of these assaults, the Plaintiffs suffered injuries including: a “possible healing left mandibular fracture” (Plaintiff Nwakanma), jaw pain and fractured teeth (Plaintiff Nwakanma), a facial injury requiring oral surgery to remove tooth fragments from the lip (Plaintiff Nwakanma), loss of consciousness (Plaintiffs Nwakanma, Spencer, and Towns), fractured toes (Plaintiffs Nwakanma and Spencer), contusions on the feet impairing the ability to walk unaided (Plaintiff Towns), a baseball-sized hematoma to the head (Plaintiff Spencer), a lacerated mouth (Plaintiff Haines), and possible neurological damage including memory loss, fatigue, and inability to concentrate (Plaintiffs Nwakanma and Towns).

5. Despite these injuries and additional injuries suffered by the Plaintiffs, the officers who participated in these assaults did not file any incident reports indicating that they had used force on any inmates assaulted in the SMU. No Plaintiffs were disciplined for acts occurring in the SMU on August 12, 2010 that would have necessitated the use of force.

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!

Written by sara

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.”

Upcoming Event: Imprisoned at Yale Law School

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On March 4-5, Yale Law School is putting on what looks to be a great conference on all aspects of prison reform, entitled “Imprisoned.” For details or to register, click here. Panel topics include solitary confinement, immigration detention, prison litigation, and the relationship between law schools and prisons, and the line-up of panelists includes leading experts and practitioners: U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner, Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights, and many more.

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