*(Oglethorpe, GA) – Members of the NAACP Georgia State Conference and the NAACP National Delegation visited Macon State Prison on Monday as part of a seven-person fact-finding delegation to investigate conditions that led to a statewide prisoner strike.
The delegation, which included members of the newly-formed Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights, was able to interview inmates, assess living and working conditions, and explore reasons that compelled prisoners to strike.
The prisoners have been petitioning for better educational opportunities, improved health care, nutritional meals, improved access to their families, a halt to harsh treatment, and fair parole decisions.
“The delegation was able to hear disturbing stories from inmates, confirm widespread inmate participation in the peaceful strike that started Dec. 9 and see conditions that have raised serious concerns and questions,” stated Elaine Brown, who heads the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights. “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. It will be critical for us to visit more institutions and speak directly with more prisoners.”
“The NAACP is committed to determining whether any civil or human rights offenses have been taking place in these prisons,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The requests being made by the inmates – better access to their families, pay for their work, access to education opportunities – are not unreasonable, and could lead to helping them successfully reenter society and become responsible citizens once they have served their time.”
“Prisoners are human beings and, like everyone else, should be afforded their basic rights,” stated Georgia State Conference President Edward Dubose. “We are here to say to the inmates, we have heard your voices loud and clear. The delegation’s visit was the first step in our efforts to investigate and address your concerns.”
Delegation members reported that inmates feel insufficiently paid for their labor, suffer from language barriers and unclear disciplinary policies, feel they lack opportunities for education and self-improvement and are often denied adequate family visitation rights. The delegation plans to release a report detailing the events of the visit in early January.
The delegation included experts and advocates with a range of perspective and expertise. Members included NAACP special envoy Rachel Talbot Ross, interpreter and NAACP special envoy Jacinta Gonzalez, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition representative and NAACP special envoy Will Harrell, Georgia ACLU Legal Director Chara Fisher Jackson, Executive Director of The Ordinary People’s Society Kenneth Glasgow, Nation of Islam representative Christopher Muhammad and United States Human Rights Network Executive Director Ajamu Baraka.
“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,” stated Ross.
The National NAACP has also called upon the United States Department of Justice, through its civil rights division, to urge federal intervention under the authority granted the Department by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq), to ensure that the civil rights of Georgia State inmates are protected.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.