“They Are Starving for Change” - The Struggle for Justice at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (GDCP)
Jun 22, 2012 By Eljeer Hawkins and Delma Jackson Socialist Alternative
"If you’re black, you were born in jail.” - Malcolm X
The prisoners of Georgia state, California’s Pelican Bay, Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, and the Lucasville prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary have utilized the weapons of strikes and hunger strikes to decry the deplorable conditions prisoners face in the prison-industrial complex.
There are six million people under “correctional supervision” in America. There are more black and brown men in the criminal justice system today than there were in slavery in 1850, as women are the fastest-growing section of the population within the prison system. As Georgia state prisoner Shawn Whatley states: “Prison is the modern-day slavery, the largest slave plantation...All prison labor is done due to force, coercion, trickery, threats of punishment, or after punishment is applied.”
After the historic Georgia state prisoners’ strike in December 2010, the prisoners of the GDCP in Jackson are facing daily violence. The case of Georgia state prisoner Miguel Jackson speaks volumes to the harsh and vile conditions prisoners face. Miguel’s wife Delma Jackson tells his story.
- Eljeer Hawkins for Justice
We Demand Justice for Miguel and the Hunger Strikersby Delma Jackson
In January 1994, the “Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 440 (SB 440) which gives the Superior/Adult court exclusive jurisdiction over youth ages 13 to 17 who have been arrested for one of seven violent offenses, otherwise known as the "Seven Deadly Sins." These crimes include: murder, rape, armed robbery (with a firearm), aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and voluntary manslaughter.”
In 1995 Miguel was convicted of armed robbery; it was his first offense, and he waived his right to a jury trial. He was convicted and sentenced by Judge William Daniel under the Georgia Seven Deadly Sins law. Judge Daniel was unfamiliar with the new law and he somehow thought that Miguel would be eligible for parole after 10 years. The seven deadly sins law states that parole is not an option if convicted of one the seven deadly sins. Judge Daniel passed away two years after he sentenced Miguel and we have been unable to get his sentenced corrected.
The Day That Shook Our World
On December 31, 2010, Miguel was handcuffed and beaten by correctional officers at Smith State Prison. He was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. That night they took Miguel back to Smith State Prison. The following morning someone took pictures of Miguel and sent them to his mother and I. We immediately drove to Smith State Prison and attempted to visit with Miguel because it was our visitation day. The prison authorities refused to allow us to visit with him despite our deep concerns for Miguel's safety.
They told us that Miguel was okay and nothing had happened to him. Unbeknownst to them, we had pictures that said otherwise. We asked them to just let us see him to give us peace of mind and they refused. They advised us that Warden Donnie Thompson had given them orders that if we did not leave, they would call the police and have us arrested.
Needless to say, we left and headed back to Atlanta to find help for Miguel. We contacted Channel 11 News and they got us in contact with the NAACP. We retained our attorney Mario Williams on Monday January 3, 2011. The following day he went to visit with Miguel, and Warden Donnie Thompson refused to let him speak with his client. Mr. Williams left and spoke with the Superior Court Judge of Tattnall county. He showed the judge the pictures of Miguel, and the Judge called the prison and instructed Warden Thompson to allow Mr. Williams to see his client. Mr. Williams returned to the prison and Warden Thompson would not let him see Miguel.
The head attorney for the Georgia Department of Corrections contacted Warden Thompson and instructed him to allow Mr. Williams to see Miguel and the Warden still refused. Mr. Williams was informed that they would make a way for him to see his client and assured him that Miguel would be moved immediately. He also advised Mr. Williams that he would be able to visit Miguel the following day at the new institution. Miguel was transferred to GDCP in Jackson, Georgia where he has been since January 4, 2011.
Miguel suffers daily for the injuries he sustained at Smith State Prison. He has chronic migraine headaches, a broken nose, and he suffers from post traumatic syndrome. He still has the hammer indentations in his head. He has been complaining about the headaches and has been told that he would be seeing a neurologist, which still hasn’t happened. The medication he was recently given for his headaches is actually Neurontin. Neurontin (gabapentin) is an anti-epileptic medication, also called an anticonvulsant. It affects chemicals and nerves in the body that are involved in the cause of seizures and some types of pain. Neurontin is also used in adults to treat nerve pain caused by herpes virus or shingles (herpes zoster). Why would they give him Neurontin medicine when he is complaining of severe headaches and pain in his knees?
On Sunday, June 11, nine inmates along with Miguel declared a hunger strike stating that they “are starving for change."
The failure to treat Miguel for the injuries he sustained at the hands of the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) officers has caused extreme stress and worry for the our family. The GDOC don’t even follow their own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) examples below:
- Ref# II0090001 Section N-8: Inmates shall be assigned all of his or her property consistent with the length of assignment and security need of the unit. (INMATES ARE NOT GIVEN THEIR PROPERTY)
- Section N-5: Visitation shall be the same as the general population. (General population has open visitation; Miguel's visits are behind a glass)
- Section N-10: Inmates may order items from the commissary. Items for the commissary may be withheld if determined by the Correctional Supervisor to be a threat to the security of the administrative Segregation Unit.
- Exercise shall be available five hours per week, one hour per day. (This is not happening: there is a shortage of guards, so inmates are not given time to exercise.
Urgent Action Needed!
We must demand justice for Miguel Jackson and other Georgia State prisoners who are being targeted and brutalized for exposing their inhumane conditions and standing up for their most basic human rights.
Pastor Glasgow is organizing a solidarity fasting for the hunger strike inmates including Miguel Jackson and against the inhumane torturous acts of Georgia prison officials. He’s hosting a rally at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday June 29,2012 from 12-2pm. Pastor Glasgow is calling on all to come and stand with him and other groups for Miguel Jackson and all inmates being treated wrongly throughout the country.
Please immediately make phone calls and send emails and/or letters to Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens, as well as Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (contact info listed below). Also, help spread the word by re-posting this solidarity appeal on blogs, email lists, social media, etc. If you are part of an organization, send letters and make calls in the name of your group.
Please send copies of protest letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, contact Socialist Alternative at (206) 526-7185 or email@example.com.
Register your protest and support for the 10 GDCP hunger strikers and demand justice by contacting:
Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison
HWY 36 WEST
POST OFFICE BOX 3877
JACKSON, GA 30233
PHONE:(770) 504-2000 / FAX: (770) 504-2006
Brian Owens, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections
- Call: 478-992-5258 (This is the number for Owens’ administrative assistant Peggy Chapman. Urge her to give him the message.)
- Call: 478-992-5367 (This is the Office of the Ombudsman, which is the official channel for raising concerns over prisoner treatment)
- Call: 404-656-1776
- Send the Governor a letter online by clicking here.
Office of the Governor Nathan Deal, State of Georgia
203 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334