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Community Coalition Meets With GA Corrections Officials, Visits First Prison. What Would Dr. King Say or Do?

December 23, 2010

http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/community-coalition-meets-ga-corrections-officials-visits-first-prison-what-would-dr-king-sa
Dec 22, 2010

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon with assistance from Ingemar Smith

“’The prisoners have done all they can do now. It’s up to us to build a movement out here that can make the changes which have to be made.’”

Eight days after the start of Georgia’s historic prisoner’s strike, in which thousands of inmates in at least six prisons refused to leave their cells, demanding wages for work, education and self-improvement programs, medical care, better access to their families and more, representatives of the communities the inmates came from met in downtown Atlanta with state corrections officials. The community delegation, calling itself the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners Rights, was headed by Ed Dubose of the NAACP [3] of Georgia’s state conference, and included representatives from the US Human Rights Organization

[4], the Nation of Islam [5], the Green Party of Georgia [6], The Ordinary Peoples Society [7], and attorneys from the ACLU of Georgia, [8] the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition [9] and elsewhere, along with state representative Roberta Abdul-Salaam [10].
State officials claimed they knew about the strike action well in advance, and said they locked the institutions down as a preemptive measure. They declared they’d confiscated more than a hundred cell phones, mostly in public places, and identified dozens of inmates whom they believed were leaders of the strike. They admitted confining these inmates to isolation and in some cases transferring them to other institutions.
The coalition asserted that brutal reprisals were being taken against nonviolent strikers by prison authorities, and that constant threats being made against inmates. These incidents, the coalition insisted, along with the vast gulf between the reasonable demands of the inmates and some of the well-known conditions in the state’s penal institutions made the immediate entry into the affected prisons by a fact finding team of advocates, community representatives and attorneys at the earliest moment an absolute necessity. The meeting adjourned awaiting the state’s decision. And late Friday afternoon, state corrections officials agreed to access by a small number of delegated observers, who would visit Macon State Prison, some two hours south of Atlanta the following Monday.
The observers who visited Macon State on December 20 would not comment on what they saw and heard, except to confirm that they did interview staff and prisoners for about five hours. Macon State , some said, was the institution chosen by the Department of Corrections. Subsequent visits would have to be made to other institutions, they confirmed, including some of those where the alleged strike leaders were being held.
“We understand where we are and how we got here,” explained Rev. Kenny Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society (TOPS) after his visit to Macon State . A former prisoner himself who spent fourteen years behind the walls, Glasgow runs a series of re-entry programs for former inmates in Georgia and Alabama . “We only got to sit down with correctional officials, we only gained access to the prisons because of the courageous stand of those behind the walls. It was their willingness to work together across different lines and to sacrifice the very limited freedom and safety they have that got us to this point. The prisoners have done all they can do now. It’s up to us to build a movement out here that can make the changes which have to be made.”
The Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners Rights is expected to request to visit at least one more Georgia penal institution before the year ends to continue its fact finding process. Coalition spokespeople have been deluged with messages of solidarity and support from across the country and around the world. Meetings, marches and demonstrations have taken place in Oakland , Detroit , and New York and elsewhere [11]. The Center for Constitutional Rights and other outfits are circulating online petitions which have garnered thousands of signatures in support of the prisoners. Those wishing to contact the Coalition via email can do so at concernedcoalitionga(at)gmail.com.

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow
Founder, Executive Director
The Ordinary People Society (TOPS)
403 West Powell St.
Dothan, AL 36303

Office / Fax: 334-671-2882
Cell: 334-791-2433

Web: http://www.wearetops.org or http://www.revkennethglasgow.blogspot.com or wearetops.blogspot.com

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