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Video released of Georgia guards beating prisoners with hammer

August 29, 2013

by Mary Ratcliff

At the beginning of this video, you hear a prison guard shouting, “”Get down! Just get down! Get down! Get down!” presumably to the other prisoners. That exclamation is followed by, “Oh (inaudible) guy over there with his hands hitting him … and a damn hammer!”

The deplorable beatings you’re witnessing occurred on New Year’s Eve, just before midnight, on Dec. 31, 2010. It’s taken two years and nearly eight months for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to release this video. A very persistent family member of one of the victims finally persuaded them to give it to her, and Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, a strong advocate for justice for prisoners, posted it to YouTube for the world to see.

The family member who retrieved the video describes it as “Georgia inmates being beaten with a hammer-like object while handcuffed,” and she adds: “The Georgia Department of Corrections denies this happened but were caught on tape. The officer responsible was never arrested or reprimanded. The district attorney had the video and never sought charges.

“The family is demanding justice for this barbaric, inhumane act. We ask everyone to help by contacting District Attorney Tom Durden at (912) 876-4151.”

Kelvin Stevenson, Georgia prisoner beaten with hammer by guards 123110
This photo of Kelvin Stevenson immediately after being beaten by guards with a hammer-like instrument on Dec. 31, 2010, is seen for the first time in the video of the beating finally released this month.
“Within the entire GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) file,” says Rev. Glasgow, “no GBI investigative agent or prison official identifies the guard on the video who is clearly beating non-resisting Miguel Jackson and Kelvin Stevenson with the hammer-like object.

“If you look closely, you will see a very large man lying on top of Kelvin Stevenson as the other guard batters his head with the hammer. Eye witnesses state that Stevenson was also handcuffed at the time.

“For all those who watch this and ask what’s the whole story, first of all ask yourself why no GBI agent or prison official reported this – at least not in the ‘official report’ – when this is their video.

“The family and advocates want justice and humane treatment, the situation investigated, and the officer in that video arrested.

“The family is demanding justice for this barbaric, inhumane act. We ask everyone to help by contacting District Attorney Tom Durden at (912) 876-4151.”

“This is how your loved ones are being treated in Georgia state prisons,” Rev. Glasgow concludes.

Why was such fury unleashed on these prisoners?

The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery in the U.S. with one critical exception: “except as a punishment for crime.” And Georgia’s prison system takes that literally. Prisoners in Georgia must provide their labor for free; they work both inside the prison and are hired out to private employers.

On Dec. 9, 2010, in a move described as the “biggest prisoner strike in U.S. history,” thousands of Georgia prisoners across the state refused to leave their cells. “Chief among the prisoners’ demands,” the New York Times reported, “is that they be compensated for jailhouse labor.”

By locking themselves in their cells, Georgia prisoners refused for one day to be slaves. In response, Georgia authorities went to war defending slavery with the fury of the Confederacy.

“In an action which is unprecedented on several levels, Black, Brown and White inmates of Georgia’s notorious state prison system are standing together for a historic one day peaceful strike today, during which they are remaining in their cells, refusing work and other assignments and activities,” wrote Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, who lives in Georgia and helped form a committee of prisoner advocates.

“This is a groundbreaking event not only because inmates are standing up for themselves and their own human rights, but because prisoners are setting an example by reaching across racial boundaries which, in prisons, have historically been used to pit oppressed communities against each other,” he wrote on the day of the strike.

On Dec. 9, 2010, in a move described as the “biggest prisoner strike in U.S. history,” thousands of Georgia prisoners across the state refused to leave their cells. “Chief among the prisoners’ demands,” the New York Times reported, “is that they be compensated for jailhouse labor.”

Even then, retaliation had begun: “We have unconfirmed reports that authorities at Macon State Prison have aggressively responded to the strike by sending tactical squads in to rough up and menace inmates,” Dixon reported.

By locking themselves in their cells, Georgia prisoners refused for one day to be slaves. In response, Georgia authorities went to war defending slavery with the fury of the Confederacy.

Dixon has stayed on the story ever since, writing in “Starving for change: Hunger strike underway since June 10 in Georgia’s Jackson State Prison,” published July 2, 2012, in the Bay View, about the continuing retaliation that still has not let up:

Miguel Jackson, Georgia prisoner beaten with hammers by guards 123110 courtesy Final Call
Miguel Jackson is shown shortly after his beating with a hammer-like object. This photo has become an icon of the historic Georgia prison strike of Dec. 9, 2010.
“State corrections officials responded with temporary cutoffs of heat, water and electricity in some buildings, along with an orgy of savage assaults and beatings across multiple institutions statewide. In one instance, corrections officials apparently conspired to conceal the whereabouts and condition of one prisoner who lingered near death in a coma for most of a week while they shuffled him hundreds of miles between prisons and hospitals.

“State corrections say they rounded up 37 whom they believed were the strike leaders and put them under close confinement at Jackson, the same prison where Troy Davis was executed last year. Most of these prisoners have remained there in close confinement, with severely restricted access to visits, communication and their attorneys, and without medical attention for the past 18 months.”

In his July 2012 article, Dixon was reporting on a hunger strike by some of those men: “Since June 10, according to accounts from prisoners and their families and Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society and the Prodigal Child Project, an undetermined number of prisoners at Georgia’s massive Diagnostic and Classification Prison near the city of Jackson have been on a hunger strike.”

“Some of these men are the Jackson State Prison hunger strikers. After two weeks, according to the families of Miguel Jackson and Preston Whiting, they are weak from hunger and subject to fainting spells. But they seem to believe they have little to lose. They are, a letter from one of them asserts, ‘starving for change.’”

By this time, the photo of Miguel Jackson’s swollen face after his literal hammering had become an icon of the Georgia prison strike. Dixon wrote: “One of the strikers is Miguel Jackson, who was taken in handcuffs from his cell at Smith State Prison 18 months ago, removed to a secluded area out of range of the video cameras that monitor almost every inch of most Georgia prisons, and beaten with a hammer-like object. Jackson is one of several brutalized prisoners whose injuries have been untreated since.

“Despite a blizzard of demands by his attorney, prison officials have refused Jackson and other prisoners medical attention for months. And although they have not eaten in two weeks, Jackson’s wife said, at the nine-day mark when medical necessity usually demands prisoners be removed to the infirmary, prison officials simply told Jackson, ‘You’re going to die,’ and left it at that.”

The photo of Miguel Jackson’s swollen face after his literal hammering had become an icon of the Georgia prison strike.

Now we know that Miguel Jackson’s beating was not out of range of the video cameras. The video shows both Jackson and Kelvin Stevenson being beaten and later sitting in wheelchairs, bloody and bandaged.

Now the California prisoner hunger strike is being billed as the largest and longest in history. Originally involving 30,000 prisoners across the state, dozens still surviving on water only since July 8, 2013, are approaching two months of starvation. For their families and advocates, this video showing the fury of prison guards against prisoners who refuse to be their slaves is particularly chilling.

As we fight for the human rights of our brothers and sisters behind enemy lines in California, let us also remember the prisoners in Georgia who are still being brutally punished for their brave one-day work strike – clearly a precedent for all the prison strikes that have followed, including the current California strike. We who know that prisoners are human and deserving of human rights must unite with families and advocates in Georgia in their demand for an end to the retaliation and with all people of good will to end prison torture everywhere.

SF Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff can be reached at editor@sfbayview.com or (415) 671-0789.

Watch Rev. Kenneth Glasgow and Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” in this new video, “Our Turn to Dream,” created to spawn a mass movement against mass incarceration. Share it widely.

 

103 thoughts on “Video released of Georgia guards beating prisoners with hammer

  1. Julie

    I agree very terrible how prisoners are treated. We should be helping them to improve themselves. I just got news where my husband is staying. That they watched one handcuffed inmate get beaten by 7 gaurds kicked in his head and one gaurd head butted him. Which can inflict life threatening injuries. They are having to make food for two prisons because one prison next door to them kitchen burned down. They barely get enough to eat majority of the prisoners are forced to do free work and dont get fed enough to keep their strength up to work. Even forced to work while sick and injured! They use a female who is not a medical dr or nurse practitioner to diagnose prisoners. Kitchen has dead rats in dish washing unit and live ones running around cockroaches. No warm showers sink has warm water so why do showers have none? When one prisoner does wrong all prisoners get punished. Cold days no warmth or hot days no fans to keep cool when facilitie has fans to keep units cool. Gaurds eat in front of prisoners when they are hungry. If not for me giving my husband money on his books he would go hungry. First time I visited him he was so thin it freaked me out. He is a big boy so I started giving him money to eat. Their is a gaurd that is under the warden during visitation had told families if we speak to the inmates just to say bye and i love you verbal we would cause the inmate to go to the hole. Which is not right to punish them especially if they never said a word. He stated if we had an issue contact the state this was their rule. I feel bad for the inmates for what I’ve heard and seen it. Gaurds seem to havr very serious mental issues themselfs. I wish there was some way to protect them from unusual and cruel treatment. When gaurds beat inmates cameras are off which I find very weird. Why are they off when it happens? Gaurds have even helped inmates gang up on one inmate to get stabbed which would make the gaurd accessory to the crime?

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