Georgia NAACP protests prison head
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Jan. 16, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper
By Tom Doran in Atlanta
Georgia's NAACP called Jan. 2 for a federal grand jury investigation
into what Georgia Conference President Walter Butler has labeled
the "re-enslavement of our people" by Prison Commissioner
Forty demonstrators led by the NAACP were excluded from the monthly
meeting of the state prison board here which refused to hear their
objections to Garner's policies and demand that he resign.
NAACP members described hundreds of complaints from inmates, their
families and friends in opposition to Garner's year-old regime.
On Dec. 15 Garner fired all 270 full-time teachers and counselors
employed by the prisons, saying that prison should be "about
punishment, not rehabilitation."
Garner is well known in Georgia for his pronouncement that "30
to 35 percent of the inmates ain't fit to kill and I'm going to
be there to accommodate them."
He cites Christ as the inspiration for his partially implemented
plan to require daily marching drills by inmates, followed by ditch-digging.
The resulting prison yard ditches, he says, will be immediately
filled up for the next day's labor, and inmates will be too tired
to watch color TV or work out with weights.
Televisions and barbells are being removed from state institutions
on Garner's orders.
Protesters also denounced another Garner innovation. They pointed
to three federal lawsuits filed in the wake of his "contraband
searches." Specially organized SWAT teams have descended on
state prisons to search inmate living quarters.
The inmate lawsuits object to brutal beatings in the course of
the searches. Prison spokesperson Mike Light justifies the searches,
explaining they have uncovered significant contraband, including
"unauthorized amounts of clothing and snack foods."
Garner frequently attends the televised searches, wearing black
fatigues and combat boots. Local press sources have noted the costume,
pointing out that the gray-haired, middle-aged commissioner is of
average stature and weighs "somewhat" more than 200 pounds.
NAACP demonstrators briefly occupied the office of Georgia Governor
Zell Miller after being excluded from the prison meeting. Miller
refused to meet the group, later issuing a statement endorsing the
Garner policies and objecting that the NAACP hasn't "joined
in our effort to reduce crime."
The protest included representatives of the ACLU and the Georgia
State Employees Union, on behalf of fired teachers and corrections
officers anxious over the results of the Garner policies.
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