December 22, 2010
Contact: Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights
“The delegation was able to hear incredible stories from inmates, confirm inmate participation in and widespread support for the peaceful strike that started Dec. 9 and to see conditions that have raised serious concerns and questions. It is clear that we must continue to examine the complaints from prisoners, their petition for change, and their appeal that their human rights be respected and, therefore, visit more institutions and speak directly with more prisoners,” said former Black Panther leader Elaine Brown, who has been spearheading much of the support activity and outreach on behalf of Black, brown, white, Muslim, Christian, Rastafarian prisoners, including those at Augusta, Baldwin, Calhoun, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Rogers, Smith, Telfair, Valdosta and Ware State Prisons.
“The corrections department made the proper decision by allowing us to review conditions and speak with inmates in this historic first step toward learning what is happening behind prison walls,” delegation member Rachel Talbot Ross of the NAACP stated. “Inmates paying for medication but not earning money for their work, language barriers suffered by Latino prisoners because of a lack of information in Spanish, unclear disciplinary policies and reasons for transferring or isolating prisoners, too few opportunities for education and self improvement were among accounts offered by inmates,” reported delegation member Ajamu Baraka of the U.S. Human Rights Network.
“Most amazing was the renewed hope and commitment to petitioning the institutions and corrections department for reform expressed by the prisoners. One inmate told us that in 15 years behind bars, this is the first time he has seen any sign someone is concerned about their plight. Prisoners also shared with us how some policies are causing hardships for their families when it comes to visitation and financial support from loved ones," said delegation member Charles Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.
"We need more information and more access to determine where policy is flawed and where other problems come from. Our desire is to reenter an institution the last week in December. We hope to issue some kind of report in early January,” said delegation member Chara Fisher Jackson of the ACLU of Georgia.
Members of the delegation included the NAACP, the Nation of Islam, the U.S. Human Rights Network, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
The prisoners are petitioning the corrections department for their human rights, including being paid for their labor, provided educational opportunities, decent health care and nutritional meals, a halt to cruel and unusual punishments, and an end to unjust parole decisions.