Georgia GOPers may have found another way to target Fani Willis

Republicans in the Georgia Senate have chosen an opportune time to take an interest in the deplorable conditions at the Fulton County Jail.

For decades, social justice activists and people incarcerated there have raised the alarm about prison conditions that have led to deaths, staff corruption, overcrowding and facility deterioration. This led to the Justice Department launching a civil rights investigation earlier this year. But it wasn’t until Thursday that Republicans announced a plan to investigate the situation.

Among those charged in the extortion indictment of former President Donald Trump by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis are several people associated with the Georgia Republican Party. Each of them, as well as Trump himself, had to appear at the Fulton County Jail for booking.

Georgia Republicans barely lifted a finger about conditions at the prison as activists stood up for those incarcerated there, a group that is overwhelmingly Black. And regardless of what Republicans say about this investigation, their political motives seem clear: Some Republicans in Georgia have pushed to indict Willis (and disrupt their trial against Trump and his co-defendants, all of whom have pleaded not guilty ). And it looks like prison conditions – which existed before Willis’ time as district attorney – could eventually be used as an excuse to do so.

After senators toured the prison on Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones claimed, “We are approaching this as an organization that wants to help find solutions to this problem.” (Note: A special prosecutor must decide whether to file charges against Jones for registering as a sham voter in 2020 to improperly hand Georgia’s Electoral College votes to Trump.)

Suffice it to say, I don’t believe his claim that he wants to help. Especially after reading the following in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Willis will likely face scrutiny over her use of resources and strategy in dealing with a huge backlog of cases that worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. “The District Attorney’s Office is required under Georgia law to have a grand jury review the sanitation of the prison and the treatment of inmates, and it is not clear whether it has complied with that duty,” said State Senator Jason Anavitarte, a top chamber representative -Republican. “She found time and resources to pursue politically selected cases in which prison conditions deteriorated and deaths occurred.”

Remarks like those above suggest that the Republican investigation is more about hitting back against Willis than about ensuring human rights in the prison system. Not surprisingly, I’m not convinced that the Republicans who make up the conservative lock-’em-up-shoot-em-down movement today are truly concerned about humane law enforcement.

For example, the AJC reported Friday that Republicans plan to focus this investigation solely on the Fulton County Jail, although they have “discussed” expanding the probe to examine a range of similar issues next year have been reported at other prisons throughout Georgia.

Rather than viewing prison conditions as part of a systemic problem, Georgia Republicans seem intent on framing Fulton County (and its district attorney) as a unique problem.

The reason for this seems completely clear.