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DOJ opens civil rights probe of Georgia prisons, will eye violence against inmates, LGBTQ prisoners

On this Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 file picture, an unidentified prisoner on demise row stands in his cell on the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Jail, in Jackson, Ga.

David Goldman | AP

The U.S. Justice Division stated Tuesday it’s opening a civil rights investigation of prisons in Georgia, with a give attention to hurt in opposition to inmates by different prisoners, and the concentrating on of LGBTQ inmates for sexual violence by prisoners and employees.

The probe comes as prisons in Georgia noticed at the very least 26 individuals in its prisons dying from confirmed or suspected homicides in 2020, 18 such instances this 12 months, and “stories of numerous different assaults,” stated Assistant Legal professional Basic Kristen Clarke, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

She additionally cited a significant riot in a single jail final 12 months, and disturbances elsewhere in Georgia’s correctional system.

Clarke stated the investigation was motivated by complaints by inmates, relations and different “stakeholders” akin to advocacy teams, in addition to by “an in depth overview of publicly obtainable info,” together with leaked pictures exhibiting gang exercise in Georgia prisons.

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“We did discover adequate justification to open this investigation,” stated Clarke, who spoke at a Zoom press convention with the performing U.S. attorneys who head prosecutors’ workplaces in all three of Georgia’s federal districts.

Clarke stated the probe will study whether or not Georgia prisons are violating the eighth Modification rights of inmates. That constitutional modification bars authorities authorities from imposing “merciless and strange punishments” on prisoners.

“This can be a prime precedence for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Division: making certain lawful and humane situations in our nation’s jails,” she stated.

Clarke stated that excessive staffing shortages and excessive turnover amongst correctional officers “are persistent issues in Georgia.”

She famous that “with out satisfactory supervision” by jail employees, inmates are at elevated threat of harming or killing themselves.

However, Clarke added, “We have drawn no conclusions but. This investigation will permit us to go in and examine the details.”

Clarke stated that if the investigators decide violations by Georgia’s jail system, “we’ll work with the state to work on mutually acceptable options.”

She stated the DOJ has “been Georgia prisons for years.”

“We opened an investigation in 2016. And whereas I can not touch upon the standing of an open investigation, we’re persevering with the work that we initiated,” Clarke stated.

The prior investigation was eyeing the remedy of homosexual and transgender inmates in Georgia’s correction establishments.

That probe was the first DOJ probe to focus on LGBT inmates.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, in an announcement later Tuesday stated, “Circumstances of incarceration in Georgia are unacceptable, and I’ll proceed to drive the eye and sources of the Federal authorities towards options and accountability.”

“I applaud at present’s announcement by the Division of Justice. It is a vital first step towards defending the human rights of incarcerated individuals in Georgia’s prisons,”  Ossoff stated. “I thank Legal professional Basic [Merrick] Garland and Assistant Legal professional Basic Clarke for listening as I’ve raised this concern and for taking motion.”

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