DOJ launches civil rights investigation of violence in Georgia prisons

DOJ launches civil rights investigation of violence in Georgia prisons
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The Department of Justice on Tuesday kicked off a civil rights investigation into the state of Georgia and its treatment of prisoners, focusing on violence between inmates as well as the targeting of gay and transgender prisoners.

“No prisoner’s sentence should include violence at the hands of other prisoners while behind bars. Our investigation will examine whether the state of Georgia adequately protects prisoners ... from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen ClarkeKristen ClarkeDOJ launches civil rights investigation of violence in Georgia prisons AG Garland announces reforms for federal monitors of local police Conditions at central California jail violate Constitution, DOJ finds MORE of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said.

Clarke referenced recent riots in Georgia prisons and noted that in 2020, at least 26 people died in Georgia prisons by confirmed or suspected homicide, while there have been a reported 18 homicides so far in 2021.

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“The Justice Department is committed to seeking to address the devastating effects of prison staff shortages, inadequate policies and training and the lack of accountability. Understaffing in correctional facilities is a particularly acute problem. It can lead to inadequate supervision and violence. It can also prevent people from being able to access necessary medical and mental health care,” she said.

Clarke noted that poor prison conditions disproportionately affect Georgia’s black population, who represent 61 percent of the state’s prison population despite constituting just 32 percent of the general population.

DOJ already has on ongoing investigation into the treatment of gay and transgender prisoners, which will run concurrently with the statewide investigation.

A spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Corrections said the agency "is committed to the safety of all of the offenders in its custody and denies that it has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating their civil rights or failing to protect them from harm due to violence."

"This commitment includes the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) prisoners from sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault," they added.

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The office of Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempRepublican politicians: Let OSHA do its job Dozens of Republican governors call for meeting with Biden on border surge President Biden's vaccination plan is constitutional — and necessary MORE (R) did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment. 

The examination seeks to determine whether the state is in violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, which bars cruel and unusual punishments of prisoners.

This is the second major DOJ action targeting a prison system under the Biden administration following an announcement in August that the Justice Department had reached an agreement with New Jersey to monitor its treatment of incarcerated women following allegations of abuse.

Updated at 2:03 p.m.