An Investigation of Georgia Prisons


Mariah Holston, Staff Writer

On September 14, 2021, the United States Justice Department opened a statewide civil investigation for Georgia prisons. The investigation will examine if inmates are being provided with reasonable protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and the sexual abuse, sexual harassments, and sexual assault of gay, lesbian, and transgender prisoners by other inmates and staff.

Georgia officials denied that they have violated the rights of inmates; however, the Justice Department wants to ensure that the inmates’ constitutional rights are not being violated. Assistant Attorney General of the department’s Civil Rights Division, Kristen Clarke, states, “‘Our investigation will examine whether the state of Georgia adequately protects prisoners held at the close and medium security levels from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners as required by the Eighth Amendment.’” 

Clarke explains, “There have been a reported 18 homicides so far in 2021. Reports of countless other violence, assaults, including stabbings and beatings, also have emerged from Georgia prisons.” Clarke also explains that people of color are disproportionately represented among the two million incarcerated people in jails and prisons. Clarke states, “‘For example, in Georgia, the percentage of incarcerated people who are Black is nearly twice the percentage of Black residents in the state of Georgia overall.’”

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, the state of Georgia’s prisoner population is 61% black. The investigation will also explore effects of the prison staff shortage, insufficient training, and the lack of accountability for misconduct. The Southern Center for Human Rights and the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP filed a class-action lawsuit as a representative for those in solitary confinement in Georgia State Prisons.

Allegedly, prisoners are being kept in their own urine and feces and are being forced to go weeks, or even months, without showering due to the shortage in staff. The shortage in staff is also preventing inmates from getting necessary medical treatment and health care. The Justice department announced the prohibition of choke holds and carotid restraints unless they are authorized to use deadly force. The department also limited the circumstances of unannounced, or no-knock, entries. According to CNBC, “Clarke said that if the investigators determine violations by Georgia’s prison system, ‘we will work with the state to work on mutually acceptable solutions.’

She said the DOJ has ‘been looking at Georgia prisons for years.’” United States Senator Jon Ossoff, Democratic-Georgia states, “Conditions of incarceration in Georgia are unacceptable, and I will continue to drive the attention and resources of the Federal government toward solutions and accountability.” According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Georgia has the fourth-highest rate of incarceration, behind Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma. The ultimate goal of this investigation is to ensure the human rights of Georgia’s incarcerated people are being protected.