The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a statewide civil investigation into conditions of confinement of prisoners held in Georgia’s prisons.
“Individuals sentenced to prison in Georgia Department of Corrections facilities deserve to be treated humanely,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “Our office is committed to ensuring state prisoners are safe while serving their sentences. We look forward to working cooperatively with the Georgia Department of Corrections to ensure the safety of all individuals in its prisons.”
“Ensuring the inherent human dignity and worth of everyone, including people who are incarcerated inside our nation’s jails and prisons, is a top priority,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department’s investigations into prison conditions have been successful at identifying systemic constitutional violations and their causes, fixing those causes, and stopping the violations. We are investigating prison violence and abuse in Georgia’s prisons to determine whether Constitutional violations exist, and if so, how to stop them.”
“Prison conditions that enable inmates to engage in dangerous and even deadly activity are an injustice, jeopardizing the lives of detainees, staff members and other corrections personnel,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary for the Middle District of Georgia. “Our local law enforcement and corrections partners, with whom we work with closely each and every day, are indispensable to our united goal of achieving a safer Georgia for all. Under the leadership of the department’s Civil Rights Division, we look forward to collaborating with our state partners to address our mutual concern for safety in the corrections system.”
“This investigation is an example of our office’s commitment to stamping out violence in our district, no matter where it is found, no matter who the victim is,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David H. Estes for the Southern District of Georgia. “We look forward to working with the State of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and our counterparts in the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern and Middle Districts of Georgia to further our shared mission to keep correctional facilities safe for the sake of our community, the prisoners housed there and the dedicated staff who work there.”
The investigation will examine whether Georgia provides prisoners reasonable protection from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners. The department also will continue its existing investigation into whether Georgia provides lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex prisoners reasonable protection from sexual abuse by other prisoners and by staff.
The department has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations in this matter. The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). Under CRIPA, the department has the authority to investigate whether any violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights result from a “pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights.” The department has conducted CRIPA investigations of many correctional systems, and where violations have been found, the resulting settlement agreements have led to important reforms.