[Ppnews] Community Coalition Meets With GA Corrections Officials, Visits First Prison

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 22 14:38:37 EST 2010



Community Coalition Meets With GA Corrections 
Officials, Visits First Prison. What Would Dr. King Say or Do?

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 12:37 ­ Bruce A. Dixon

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, with assistance from Ingemar Smith
http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content/community-coalition-meets-ga-corrections-officials-visits-first-prison-what-would-dr-king-sa

Last Friday members of the Concerned Coaltion to 
Protect Prisoner Rights met with Georgia 
correctional officials. The following Monday they 
commenced the first of a series of fact finding 
visits to the state's correctional institutions, 
seeking the reasons and right response to the 
stand of inmates demanding their human rights. 
Dr. King's annual holiday is coming up too. What 
would he say about the prisoners and the nation's 
misguided public policy of mass incarceration? 
What would he do, and what should we?

Community Coalition Meets With GA Corrections 
Officials, Visits First Prison. What Would Dr. King Say or Do?

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon with assistance from Ingemar Smith

“'The prisoners have done all they can do now. 
It's up to us to build a movement out here that 
can make the changes which have to be made.'”

Eight days after the start of Georgia's historic 
prisoner's strike, in which thousands of inmates 
in at least six prisons refused to leave their 
cells, demanding wages for work, education and 
self-improvement programs, medical care, better 
access to their families and more, 
representatives of the communities the inmates 
came from met in downtown Atlanta with state 
corrections officials. The community delegation, 
calling itself the Concerned Coalition to Protect 
Prisoners Rights, was headed by Ed Dubose of the 
<http://www.naacp.org>NAACP of Georgia's state 
conference, and included representatives from the 
<http://www.ushrnetwork.org>US Human Rights 
Organization, the <http://www.noi.org>Nation of 
Islam, the 
<http://www.georgiagreenparty.org>Green Party of 
Georgia, 
<http://www.wearetops.org/pages/Home/Home_Page.htm>The 
Ordinary Peoples Society, and attorneys from the 
<http://www.acluga.org>ACLU of Georgia, the 
<http://www.criminaljusticecoalition.org/>Texas 
Criminal Justice Coalition and elsewhere, along 
with state representative 
<http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2009_10/house/bios/abdulsalaamRoberta/abdulsalaamRoberta.htm>Roberta 
Abdul-Salaam.

State officials claimed they knew about the 
strike action well in advance, and said they 
locked the institutions down as a preemptive 
measure. They declared they'd confiscated more 
than a hundred cell phones, mostly in public 
places, and identified dozens of inmates whom 
they believed were leaders of the strike. They 
admitted confining these inmates to isolation and 
in some cases transferring them to other institutions.

The coalition asserted that brutal reprisals were 
being taken against nonviolent strikers by prison 
authorities, and that constant threats being made 
against inmates. These incidents, the coalition 
insisted, along with the vast gulf between the 
reasonable demands of the inmates and some of the 
well-known conditions in the state's penal 
institutions made the immediate entry into the 
affected prisons by a fact finding team of 
advocates, community representatives and 
attorneys at the earliest moment an absolute 
necessity. The meeting adjourned awaiting the 
state's decision. And late Friday afternoon, 
state corrections officials agreed to access by a 
small number of delegated observers, who would 
visit Macon State Prison, some two hours south of Atlanta the following Monday.

The observers who visited Macon State on December 
20 would not comment on what they saw and heard, 
except to confirm that they did interview staff 
and prisoners for about five hours. Macon State, 
some said, was the institution chosen by the 
Department of Corrections. Subsequent visits 
would have to be made to other institutions, they 
confirmed, including some of those where the 
alleged strike leaders were being held.

“We understand where we are and how we got here,” 
explained Rev. Kenny Glasgow of The Ordinary 
Peoples Society (TOPS) after his visit to Macon 
State. A former prisoner himself who spent 
fourteen years behind the walls, Glasgow runs a 
series of re-entry programs for former inmates in 
Georgia and Alabama. “We only got to sit down 
with correctional officials, we only gained 
access to the prisons because of the courageous 
stand of those behind the walls. It was their 
willingness to work together across different 
lines and to sacrifice the very limited freedom 
and safety they have that got us to this point. 
The prisoners have done all they can do now. It's 
up to us to build a movement out here that can 
make the changes which have to be made.”

The Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners 
Rights is expected to request to visit at least 
one more Georgia penal institution before the 
year ends to continue its fact finding process. 
Coalition spokespeople have been deluged with 
messages of solidarity and support from across 
the country and around the world. Meetings, 
marches and demonstrations have taken place in 
Oakland, Detroit, and New York and 
<http://www.wral.com/news/news_briefs/story/8794935/>elsewhere. 
The Center for Constitutional Rights and other 
outfits are circulating online petitions which 
have garnered thousands of signatures in support 
of the prisoners. Those wishing to contact the 
Coalition via email can do so at concernedcoalitionga(at)gmail.com.

“Any holiday celebration, any dinner, parade, or 
commemoration of Dr. King's life and work that 
does not embrace the cause of Georgia's and the 
nation's prisoners... is an empty one...”

In about three weeks we'll all be celebrating the 
January 15 anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther 
King's birth. Many have remarked on the great 
distance between the actual life and work of Dr. 
King and the empty plaster saint of nonviolence 
that some have turned him into. The truth is that 
the living Marin Luther King was a fearless 
opponent of injustice, a man unafraid of 
endorsing unpopular causes, so long as these 
causes were just. If Dr. King were alive today he 
would wrap his arms around the cause of Georgia's 
and this nation's prisoners. Work without wages 
is indeed close to slavery. Even if the 13th 
Amendment permits “involuntary servitude” of 
those convicted of crimes Dr. King might rightly 
observe, that this was passed almost a century 
and a half ago, and that many things “legal” are neither moral nor advisable.

The U.S. has four and half percent of the world's 
population and nearly twenty five percent of its 
prisoners. Georgia leads the nation with an 
astounding one in thirteen of its adult citizens 
in prisons and jails, or under court and 
correctional supervision, thanks to innovations 
like the privatization of misdemeanor probations. 
When advocating ever-longer sentences becomes a 
standard campaign tactic for ambitious 
politicians, when fortunes are made overcharging 
inmate families for phone calls and raking off 
ten percent and more of paltry funds families 
send their loved ones, when prisons become growth 
industries with their own lobbyists, punishment has become a crime.

Any holiday celebration, any dinner, parade, or 
commemoration of Dr. King's life and work that 
does not embrace the cause of Georgia's and the 
nation's prisoners, that does not critically 
examine the facts America's current policy of 
mass incarceration is an empty one, a hollow 
mockery of the man King was and the movement he 
stood for. More than twenty thousand in Atlanta 
march in observance of Dr. King's life and work 
every year. The shiny new sanctuary of Ebeneezer 
Baptist Church is always filled with dignitaries 
on that day. Let's see how many signs there are 
outside the church supporting the prisoners on 
King's day in Atlanta and around the country. And 
let's see if the dignitaries inside Ebeneezer can 
even bring themselves to mention the people 
behind the walls, the locked down and and the 
left out, who are truly Dr. King's people. And ours.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor of Black Agenda 
Report, and a member of the state committee of 
the <http://www.georgiagreenparty.org/>Georgia 
Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.




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