Witness testimony before a Georgia state House committee, formed by Democratic lawmakers to study and expose what they call an urgent crisis of homicides, suicides and understaffing in Georgia prisons, highlighted gross negligence, trauma-inducing behavior, and poor care within various facilities across the state, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced a sweeping civil rights probe of the state’s prison system, but House committee members said Georgia can’t wait for the results of the investigation to enact reforms.
State Rep. Josh McLaurin, nonprofit workers, activists, and others have also called for officials to release people to stem the spread of COVID-19 and the myriad issues caused by chronic understaffing. A guard from Lee Arrendale State Prison, Georgia’s largest prison for women, said the facility is dangerously understaffed, the medical care is poor, and the food is vile. Hope Johnson, a UCLA data scientist helping to track COVID-19 in American prisons and jails, said Georgia has the second-highest death rate behind Alabama for people who contract the disease behind bars. A Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman broadly denied allegations leveled in the hearing.