Assistant Legal professional Basic Kristen Clarke makes a press release asserting a civil rights investigation into situations in Georgia prisons |  GRANDPA

Comments as prepared

Good Morning. I have been joined by Peter Leary, Kurt Erskine, and David Estes, acting United States attorneys for central, north, and south Georgia counties.

We are here today to announce that the US Department of Justice is opening a nationwide civil investigation into Georgia prisons. This investigation will be comprehensive but will focus on the harm to prisoners caused by prisoner violence against prisoners. We also investigate sexual abuse of gay, lesbian and transgender prisoners by prisoners and staff.

We are conducting this investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. This federal law empowers the Department of Justice to investigate state prisons to determine whether detainees are exposed to a pattern or practice of constitutional violations. Our investigations were successful to determine not only whether there are systemic constitutional violations, but also the root causes of such violations – so that these causes can be remedied and the violations stopped. Our country was founded on high ideals. According to the Eighth Amendment, those convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison terms should never be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishments”.

We must guarantee the human dignity and worth of all people – including those in prison.

When President Jimmy Carter enacted the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act in 1980, he said: “To our national shame, there are still cases of serious abuse of the very people who need our special concern most because of their imprisonment “. so vulnerable. “That still applies today.

Although this critical Federal Citizenship Law has led to some progress, there is still an urgent need for our work. Today over two million people live in our nation’s prisons and prisons. And People of Color are disproportionately represented among them. In Georgia, for example, the percentage of incarcerated people who are black is almost twice the percentage of black residents in the entire state of Georgia. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, the state’s prison population is 61% black, although they make up approximately 32% of the population.

The Justice Department is committed to addressing the devastating effects of shortages in prison staff, inadequate guidelines and training, and lack of accountability. The shortage of staff in prisons is a particularly acute problem. It can lead to inadequate supervision and violence. It can also prevent people from receiving the necessary medical and mental health care. Without adequate staff oversight and mental health care, people with mental health problems are more likely to harm themselves or even commit suicide. The risk of self-harm and suicide is increased when people are locked in solitary confinement and isolated without constant human interaction. And without proper guidelines, training and staff accountability, people in prisons and prisons are also at risk of abuse through sexual misconduct and excessive violence.

The Georgia Prison Investigation that we are announcing today will continue this important work of protecting the rights of those in custody.

Under the Eighth Amendment, prison officials have a constitutional obligation to provide adequate security for those under their supervision. No punishment for any prisoner should include violence by other prisoners while behind bars.

Our investigation will investigate whether the state of Georgia adequately protects prisoners in the near and intermediate security levels from physical harm from other prisoners, as required in the 8th Amendment. On the basis of an extensive review of publicly available information and information from stakeholders, we find a substantial justification to initiate this investigation now.

For example:

  • In 2020, at least 26 people died in Georgia prisons from confirmed or suspected homicides. So far, 18 homicides have been reported in 2021.
  • Reports of countless other violent attacks, including knife wounds and beatings, have also surfaced from Georgian prisons.
  • Concerned citizens, family members and civil rights organizations – as well as photos and videos leaked on social media and other channels – have drawn attention to widespread smuggled weapons and open gang activity in the prisons.
  • Last year, a major Georgia security prison broke out in major rioting and other prisons were reported to have rioted.
  • Extreme staff shortages and high turnover among correctional officers are persistent problems in Georgia.

We will also continue the work of our ongoing investigation into whether the State of Georgia is adequately protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, or LGBTI prisoners from sexual abuse by other prisoners and staff.

I am pleased to announce that a team of professional attorneys from the Civil Rights Division’s Special Disputes Division is being assisted by professional attorneys in all three US Attorneys in Georgia to conduct the investigation. The investigation will be independent, thorough and fair. We have not and will not draw any conclusions until our investigation is complete. If our investigation provides reasonable grounds for believing that there has been a systemic constitutional violation, we will notify the State of Georgia in writing of the violation or violations, along with supporting facts and minimal remedial action. We will try to work with the state to find solutions to any problems our investigation reveals.

We are committed to tackling illegal and unconstitutional problems in our country’s prisons across the country. I would just like to highlight a few examples of how our cases aim to address systemic deficiencies that cause harm to the life, safety and physical integrity of people in prisons and prisons:

  • Our ongoing litigation over the conditions of detention in Alabama men’s prisons seeks to address the prevalence of violence between detainees and the use of excessive force by staff. Our report on results in this case showed how an inadequate risk of damage arises from understaffing.
  • We focus on prolonged solitary confinement damage in enforcing our Hampton Roads, Virginia Consent Decree, as well as investigating the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Alameda County Jail, and San Luis Obispo County Jail.
  • Our Alameda County Jail investigation also examines how a lack of community mental health services can cause people to cycle unnecessarily through mental health facilities in prisons and dormitories and exacerbate prison care problems.
  • Finally, our recent Decree of Consent to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women requires the state of New Jersey to implement policies, training, accountability and transparency measures to ensure that women incarcerated there are protected from sexual abuse by staff.

Combating unconstitutional, unlawful and inhumane conditions of detention is a top priority for the Civil Rights Department of the Ministry of Justice. As Nelson Mandela said, “Nobody really knows a nation until you’ve been in its prisons. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest. ”

Thanks very much.

I will now give the floor to Acting US Attorney Leary, who will now make comments.