December 13, 2010 Updated: 6:54 pm EST WSBTV
ATLANTA, Ga. -- Authorities have locked down four Georgia prisons for five
days for security reasons after discovering that inmates were launching a
protest seeking better work and living conditions, corrections officials
Authorities said the lockdown confines inmates to their cells and
restricts them from visitation rights, telephone calls and visits to the
There have been no major incidents or issues reported at the four prisons,
which will remain locked down until an internal investigation and a
security review are completed, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman
Peggy Chapman. She said the state's other 26 prisons are operating
"The department's mission of maintaining safe and secure facilities is
nonnegotiable and will not be jeopardized," said Brian Owens, the
department's commissioner. "The department will ensure appropriate safety
measures are in place before the lockdown is lifted."
The protest, which was launched Thursday, aimed to prod corrections
officials into giving the prisoners better educational opportunities,
improved health care and more access to their families, said Leila
McDowell, vice president of communications for the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People.
Organizers say the protest was put together by inmates through a network
of contraband cell phones. Although Georgia inmates caught with cell
phones could face up to five years in prison, corrections officials say
smuggled phones are the leading contraband in state prisons.
The NAACP's Georgia chapter staged a rally at the steps of the Georgia
Capitol Monday urging Gov. Sonny Perdue and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to
investigate the measures that guards used to force prisoners back to work.
They claim prison guards used violence to get prisoners out of their
Corrections officials have denied the allegations. The U.S. Justice
Department and Perdue's office did not immediately return messages seeking
comment. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said the agency
has no jurisdiction over state prisons.
The lockdown took place at Hays State Prison in Trion, Macon State Prison
in Oglethorpe, Telfair State Prison in Helena and Smith State Prison in