AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — The Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into Georgia’s state prisons. This includes four located in the CSRA — Augusta State Medical prison, Emanuel Women’s Facility, Jenkins Correctional Facility and Washington State Prison.
“This investigation will be comprehensive but will focus on harm to prisoners, resulting from prisoner-on-prisoner violence,” Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We’re also investigating sexual abuse of gay, lesbian and transgender prisoners by prisoners and staff.”
26 Georgia inmates were killed by confirmed or suspected homicide in 2020. 18 homicides have been reported in 2021, including Ali Tanner, who was fatally stabbed in July while serving his life sentence at Augusta State Medical Prison.
“No prisoner’s sentence should include violence at the hands of other prisoners behind bars.”
Clarke suggests understaffing and employee turnover may be a factor in recent violence.
“Understaffing in correctional facilities is a particularly acute problem. It can lead to inadequate supervision and violence. It can also prevent people from being able to access medical and mental health care. Without adequate staff supervision and mental health care, there’s an increased likelihood that people experiencing mental health issues may harm themselves or even commit suicide.”
The Georgia Department of Corrections denies wrongdoing:
“The GDC 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. This commitment includes the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) prisoners from sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. We cooperated fully with the USDOJ’s initial investigation in 2016 and are proud of the service and dedication of our team since then to perform during unprecedented challenges.”Georgia Department of Corrections
Reform Georgia, a justice policy think tank, has been analyzing prison conditions. Its board member, Fallon McClure, argues there is a top-down effect occurring. She suggests poor conditions and treatment could affect if an inmate returns to prison after release.
“Folks are not coming out rehabilitated,” McClure, claims. “There’s supposed to be this rehabilitative process — you go to prison and come out as a better person. But, we’re not setting them up in a way that people can do that. We’re not setting them up for success.”
Anyone with relevant information is encouraged to contact the U.S. Department of Justice at (844) 401-3736 or community.GeorgiaDOC@usdoj.gov.