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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COVERDELL LEGISLATIVE OFFICE BUILDING
ROOM #507 F
ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30334
(404) 656-0202
(404) 463-6381 FAX
JOSH MCLAURIN
REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 51
P. O. BOX 567297
ATLANTA, GA 31156
EMAIL: josh.mclaurin@house.ga.gov
STANDING COMMITTEES
Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight
Judiciary Non-Civil
Special Rules
September 22, 2020
VIA EMAIL
Timothy C. Ward
Commissioner
Georgia Department of Corrections
7 M L K Jr Drive, Suite 543
Atlanta, GA 30334
Re: Breakdown in physical safety in Georgia’s prisons
Dear Commissioner Ward:
We write to demand the Department’s immediate and complete investigation of recent allegations that
conditions of confinement in Georgia prisons have deteriorated to a point that violates the U.S. Constitution and
basic human rights. As you are aware, the Southern Center for Human Rights has compiled evidence of the
following alarming trends:
• Large-scale riots within the last three months at Ware State Prison and Macon State Prison, caused by
gross understaffing and nearly 24/7 confinement of incarcerated people in their own cells for weeks or
months on end. There are apparently videos showing injured prisoners covered in blood, prison dorms
with no security supervision, groups of men roaming lockdown dorms armed with machetes, and cells
with no running water or functioning toilets.
• Unprecedented numbers of homicides that exceed comparable statistics for multi-year periods in other
states’ entire prison systems. Twenty-one people were murdered while in custody this year.
• Unprecedented numbers of suicides that are nearly double the comparable statistics in other systems: a
rate of 40 per 100,000 individuals.
• An understaffing crisis: 2,740 unfilled officer positions (30% vacancy rate) as of June 2020.
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that the Department maintain conditions of
confinement that do not amount to cruel and unusual punishment. It is a violation of the Eighth Amendment
when “prison officials, acting with deliberate indifference, expose[] a prisoner to a sufficiently substantial risk
of serious damage to his future health, and it does not matter whether the risk comes from a single source or
multiple sources, any more than it matters whether a prisoner faces an excessive risk of attack for reasons
personal to him or because all prisoners in his situation face such a risk.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
843 (1994) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COVERDELL LEGISLATIVE OFFICE BUILDING
ROOM #507 F
ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30334
(404) 656-0202
(404) 463-6381 FAX
JOSH MCLAURIN
REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 51
P. O. BOX 567297
ATLANTA, GA 31156
EMAIL: josh.mclaurin@house.ga.gov
STANDING COMMITTEES
Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight
Judiciary Non-Civil
Special Rules
It is horrifying to hear of these events happening in Georgia. The crisis requires a full response. It is not
enough to lament the lack of funding or the unavailability of resources. The Eighth Amendment does not say
“nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted, unless prisons lack resources.” If you are not in a position to
fulfill the Department’s mission constitutionally, then that message needs to be made clear to the Governor and
the General Assembly. But for as long as you contend that you are able to do your job constitutionally, then
we demand in the strongest possible terms that you conduct a full investigation of the above allegations
immediately and provide regular updates on threats to physical safety in Georgia prisons and your
efforts to address them.
Signed,
Rep. Josh McLaurin (HD 51)
Rep. Angelika Kausche (HD 50)
Rep. El-Mahdi Holly (HD 111)
Rep. Donna McLeod (HD 105)
Rep. Mary Robichaux (HD 48)
Rep. CaMia Hopson (HD 153)
Rep. Gregg Kennard (HD 102)
Rep. Jasmine Clark (HD 108)
Rep. Viola Davis (HD 87)
Rep. Beth Moore (HD 95)
Rep. Betsy Holland (HD 54)
Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (HD 107)
Rep. Becky Evans (HD 83)
Rep. Mary Frances Williams (HD 37)
Rep. Erick Allen (HD 40)
Rep. Matthew Wilson (HD 80)
Rep. Mike Wilensky (HD 79)

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Rep. Beth Moore: Letter urging immediate investigation into Georgia Prisons - 9/22/20

  • 1. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COVERDELL LEGISLATIVE OFFICE BUILDING ROOM #507 F ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30334 (404) 656-0202 (404) 463-6381 FAX JOSH MCLAURIN REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 51 P. O. BOX 567297 ATLANTA, GA 31156 EMAIL: josh.mclaurin@house.ga.gov STANDING COMMITTEES Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Judiciary Non-Civil Special Rules September 22, 2020 VIA EMAIL Timothy C. Ward Commissioner Georgia Department of Corrections 7 M L K Jr Drive, Suite 543 Atlanta, GA 30334 Re: Breakdown in physical safety in Georgia’s prisons Dear Commissioner Ward: We write to demand the Department’s immediate and complete investigation of recent allegations that conditions of confinement in Georgia prisons have deteriorated to a point that violates the U.S. Constitution and basic human rights. As you are aware, the Southern Center for Human Rights has compiled evidence of the following alarming trends: • Large-scale riots within the last three months at Ware State Prison and Macon State Prison, caused by gross understaffing and nearly 24/7 confinement of incarcerated people in their own cells for weeks or months on end. There are apparently videos showing injured prisoners covered in blood, prison dorms with no security supervision, groups of men roaming lockdown dorms armed with machetes, and cells with no running water or functioning toilets. • Unprecedented numbers of homicides that exceed comparable statistics for multi-year periods in other states’ entire prison systems. Twenty-one people were murdered while in custody this year. • Unprecedented numbers of suicides that are nearly double the comparable statistics in other systems: a rate of 40 per 100,000 individuals. • An understaffing crisis: 2,740 unfilled officer positions (30% vacancy rate) as of June 2020. The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that the Department maintain conditions of confinement that do not amount to cruel and unusual punishment. It is a violation of the Eighth Amendment when “prison officials, acting with deliberate indifference, expose[] a prisoner to a sufficiently substantial risk of serious damage to his future health, and it does not matter whether the risk comes from a single source or multiple sources, any more than it matters whether a prisoner faces an excessive risk of attack for reasons personal to him or because all prisoners in his situation face such a risk.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 843 (1994) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
  • 2. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COVERDELL LEGISLATIVE OFFICE BUILDING ROOM #507 F ATLANTA, GEORGIA 30334 (404) 656-0202 (404) 463-6381 FAX JOSH MCLAURIN REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 51 P. O. BOX 567297 ATLANTA, GA 31156 EMAIL: josh.mclaurin@house.ga.gov STANDING COMMITTEES Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Judiciary Non-Civil Special Rules It is horrifying to hear of these events happening in Georgia. The crisis requires a full response. It is not enough to lament the lack of funding or the unavailability of resources. The Eighth Amendment does not say “nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted, unless prisons lack resources.” If you are not in a position to fulfill the Department’s mission constitutionally, then that message needs to be made clear to the Governor and the General Assembly. But for as long as you contend that you are able to do your job constitutionally, then we demand in the strongest possible terms that you conduct a full investigation of the above allegations immediately and provide regular updates on threats to physical safety in Georgia prisons and your efforts to address them. Signed, Rep. Josh McLaurin (HD 51) Rep. Angelika Kausche (HD 50) Rep. El-Mahdi Holly (HD 111) Rep. Donna McLeod (HD 105) Rep. Mary Robichaux (HD 48) Rep. CaMia Hopson (HD 153) Rep. Gregg Kennard (HD 102) Rep. Jasmine Clark (HD 108) Rep. Viola Davis (HD 87) Rep. Beth Moore (HD 95) Rep. Betsy Holland (HD 54) Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (HD 107) Rep. Becky Evans (HD 83) Rep. Mary Frances Williams (HD 37) Rep. Erick Allen (HD 40) Rep. Matthew Wilson (HD 80) Rep. Mike Wilensky (HD 79)