Feds Launch Investigation Into Georgia Prisons After Dozens Killed

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Feds Launch Investigation Into Georgia Prisons After Dozens Killed

Topline

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced a sweeping civil rights probe into Georgia state prisons following allegations that inmates have been forced to live in deplorable conditions amid rampant violence that’s led to more than 40 homicides within prisons since the start of last year.

Key Facts

The investigation will focus on the violence to determine whether the constitutional rights protecting the incarcerated against “cruel and unusual punishment” are being violated, the DOJ said.

At least 44 people have died in confirmed or suspected homicides at Georgia prisons since the start of 2020, while “countless other violent assaults” have been reported within the prison system, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said.

Another specific focus will be on whether there has been sexual abuse of LGBTQ prisoners in Georgia, either by staff or fellow prisoners.

Crucial Quote

“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information gathered from stakeholders, we find significant justification to open this investigation now,” Clarke said in remarks on Tuesday.

Chief Critic

In a statement to Forbes, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lori Benoit said the department “is committed to the safety of all of the offenders in its custody and denies that it has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating their civil rights or failing to protect them from harm due to violence.”

Key Background

Terrible living conditions within Georgia prisons have been widely reported, with photos of bloodied prisoners asking for help and pictures of moldy food regularly being posted online, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A lawsuit filed on Friday by the Southern Center for Human Rights also claimed that men held in solitary confinement in at least one prison are held in cells filled with rats and roaches, and deal with a constant smell of human waste since prison staff refuse to flush toilets. Prisoners can be held in those conditions for months, according to the lawsuit, taking a significant toll on mental health. Conditions are further complicated by “extreme staffing shortages” and high turnover rates that lead to “persistent problems in Georgia,” according to the DOJ.

Tangent

Several employees and prisoners were injured during a riot at Ware State Prison in August of 2020, after prisoners overwhelmed staff at the facility, which had a critical worker shortage. Video footage leaked from the prison showed no running water and toilets that were not working.

Further Reading

‘Constitutional crisis’: Georgia human rights group gets DOJ’s attention after Ware State Prison riot (WXIA-TV)

Lawsuit: Solitary confinement in Georgia prison overly harsh (The Associated Press)

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