The Georgia sheriff’s offices are largely investigating their own after someone dies in his prison. A legislator wants to change that.
ATLANTA – A Georgian lawmaker tabled bills on Friday that it believes could create more accountability and confidence in the Georgian detention system.
The Inmate Mental Health Act was drafted by Representative David Wilkerson. If passed, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation would be tasked with investigating all future prison deaths. Currently, county sheriffs who operate these prisons can investigate themselves.
“So if someone else looks at it, who is a trained investigator, it gives us, the public, security. Also, the prison can make corrections when things need to be corrected, ”Wilkerson said.
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The Sandy Springs Democrat said he filed the legislation in response to a series of 11Alive Reveal investigations that focused on the death of Kevil Wingo, a former inmate who died in Cobb County’s 2019 internment camp.
Last year, the Reveal team uncovered a video of the 37-year-old father of three who had repeatedly had a medical emergency and asked to be hospitalized for almost eight hours while struggling to breathe. The prison nurse refused to check his vital signs or send him to the hospital.
Wingo later died of a perforated ulcer in a padded room.
“That’s what made me do it. Just seeing it on camera, I said something had to be done, “Wilkerson said. “This is a call to action so no family will have to go through this again. The work that [11Alive] definitely did. “
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Wilkerson’s bill also allows prisons to conduct a mental health assessment within 12 hours of an inmate being detained and have 24/7 access to a mental health professional.
“When someone is in jail dealing with a mental health problem and not receiving treatment, it destroys a family and our trust in law enforcement to do the job they were chosen to do,” said Wilkerson.
The proposed legislation would also require GBI to track all prison and inmate deaths.
At the moment, the state has no idea how many people die behind bars in county jails unless a sheriff’s office asks for assistance with the investigation.
Since 2004, at least 217 people have died in the state’s four largest county prisons.
The Reveal is an investigative show that exposes inequality, injustice and incompetence caused by rulers across Georgia and across the country.
The “Believe Them” Inquiry into Revelation:
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