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Striking Georgia prisoners name names, allege sexual abuse, ongoing threats and maltreatment by staff

March 20, 2014

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Not quite a month ago, I wrote that we at Black Agenda Report had received word of a new self-organized hunger strike among prisoners in Georgia’s notorious Diagnostic and Classification Prison at Jackson, the same place where Troy Davis was murdered by the state a couple years ago. We had no details beyond a single brief note and a list of prisoners who’d signed a letter. Since then a second communication from the prisoners at Jackson has been relayed to us from our friends at the Freedom Archives.

Georgia hunger strikers 031914 by Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda ReportThis note says that eight prisoners are still refusing food and are on the receiving end of abuse and threats from correctional officers at Jackson. The note also sheds some chilling light on the reason for the prisoners’ self-organized action.

In a pattern all too familiar, the prisoners allege that they are being isolated and confined to Jackson’s Special Management Unit, a prison within a prison, in order to cover up official misconduct, including alleged sexual abuse by correctional officers and supervisors. In the note reproduced below, the prisoners go so far as to accuse by name a supervising correctional officer, Lt. Michael Kyles, of being the perpetrator of sexual abuse and of threatening prisoners who reach out to the public.

In a pattern all too familiar, the prisoners allege that they are being isolated and confined to Jackson’s Special Management Unit, a prison within a prison, in order to cover up official misconduct, including alleged sexual abuse by correctional officers and supervisors.

Their letter is postmarked March 13, 2014, and was edited slightly for readability by Freedom Archives:

“Over a long period of time, the Special Management Unit of Jackson, Georgia, prison staff have ignored and tried to cover up one of the most important issues in the U.S. today – sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and threats to prisoners here.

“Prisoners have been on hunger strike – starving themselves damn near ‘til death trying to get some outside support for these actions – but nothing has happened. We inmates and others have been victimized by SMU staff Lt. Michael J. Kyles’ sexual abuse actions.

“Grievances and witness statement forms have been filed. But they are either ignored or destroyed and inmates are getting punished by having bugs put in their food, having people spit in their food, are being given smaller portions than other inmates, are being threatened by other staff – and Lt. Kyles, who is perpetrating the sexual abuse, is threatening the inmates that are trying to speak up by saying to anyone who tries to reach out that they will be killed.

“Over a long period of time, the Special Management Unit of Jackson, Georgia, prison staff have ignored and tried to cover up one of the most important issues in the U.S. today – sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and threats to prisoners here.”

“Prisoners’ families and loved ones have called to the prison to speak with Warden Bruce Chatman, Warden June Bishop, Warden of Administration William Powell, Mr. Logan, Capt. Michael Nobal and even Mental Health Counselor Mr. Whitmore – but all they’ve done is lied to family members saying that nothing is going on.

“The administration of the SMU has also tried to cover up for staff Lt. Michael J. Kyles by sending an inside investigator of their own into the prison rather than an outside investigator to look into the issues we have raised. Not even the prison commissioner, Mr. Brad Owens, has taken action and has instead ignored phone calls from inmates’ family members. We prisoners fear for our lives and are reaching out for community help and to take serious action.

“Please help!”

  • Tamarkus L. Wright, 1070891, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233
  • Robert Watkins, 1245402, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233
  • Rodrick Henderson, 194536, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233
  • Isaiah Meadows, 1202688, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233
  • Ernesto Castillo, 1291603, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233
  • Ricky Mosley, 1218550, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233
  • Malachi Jenkins, 725779, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233
  • Gregory Lawson, 100792447, GDCSP SMU, P.O. Box 3877, Jackson GA 30233

Here’s what you can do

The Georgia Department of Corrections has historically proved utterly unable to investigate itself. It is therefore vitally important that you call the office of Gov. Nathan Deal and demand that the state’s independent investigative agency, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, look into the Jackson SMU and the allegations of the prisoners. Gov. Deal’s front office number is 404-656-1776.

The front office of Georgia’s Department of Corrections is 404-656-4661. Please do call them and politely express your concern for the welfare of the men in Jackson’s Special Management Unit, and call the prison itself at 706-387-6450 and do the same. Feel free to drop us an email note via the comments page to let us know you’ve made one or more of these calls, especially if you live in Georgia.

Of course you are encouraged to write to the prisoners directly at the addresses above, using their full names and ID numbers.

The Georgia Department of Corrections has historically proved utterly unable to investigate itself. It is therefore vitally important that you call the office of Gov. Nathan Deal and demand that the state’s independent investigative agency, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, look into the Jackson SMU and the allegations of the prisoners. Gov. Deal’s front office number is 404-656-1776.

As we’ve said before, in a better world there would already be an existing mass movement devoted to rolling back the prison state. This is not that better world, and such a movement is still waiting for us to build it, to call it into existence with our time and effort and labor. The people behind the walls are doing what they can do with the few resources at their disposal. Those of us out here in the world of minimum security must rise to the challenge. The questions are will we, and if not now, when?

We’ll do our best to keep readers up on the progress of this story and will print a Monday morning update including what some folks in Georgia and elsewhere are doing on March 24.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta, Georgia, and can be reached via this site’s contact page or at bruce.dixon@blackagendareport.com.

 

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