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Free Speech Sacrificed for Prison Profits
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
For further information, contact:
Bruce Dixon, 678-298-9463 x3
Press Secretary, Georgia Green Party
Augusta resident arrested for showing sign to Governor
Ayman Fadel an Augusta based business owner was arrested for misdemeanor criminal trespass and was held pending the setting of bond by the Jenkins County Sheriff's Department. A thirty year Georgia resident, Mr. Fadel has been active on a range of issues with the CSRA Peace Alliance.
Mr. Fadel was arrested while holding up a sign reading "CCA $ is not blessed". He was part of a small picket gathered in opposition at a ground-breaking event advertised as a 'public ceremony' in a paid advertisement in the Millen News taken out by the Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, the privately owned Tennessee based company which owns and operates sixty prison facilities across the country advertised that both Governor Perdue and DoC Commissioner Owens would be in attendance at the 10:00 am event.
Private security in the employ of CCA, with the support of deputies from the Jenkins County Sheriff's Department, informed members of the public, wishing to participate in the picket in opposition to this new private prison that they could do so only in a designated 'free speech' area in the parking lot, not visible to the ceremony itself. A uniformed officer attempted to move back the picket, and shortly after when the Governor arrived, the sherrif's deupties ordered that signs be put down. Mr. Fadel, asserting his free speech rights challenged the legality of the police order and was promptly arrested.
"Our nation's public policy of imposing mass incarceration is destroying the liberties of all of us," said Denice Traina, former cochair of the Georgia Green Party, mother, grandmother and Augusta based physical therapist. Ms. Traina remained on site where she helped organize bail for her Columbia County neighbor. "We pretend to have overcome the race caste system of Jim Crow, only to recreate it anew by criminalizing health problems and discarding proven restorative justice strategies in favor of punitive and highly profitable tools of social control. Are the Georgia authorities so frightened by this week's inmate strike action, that they must break ribs and lock up even more for expressing an opposing view?"
Newspapers have reported that inmates in as many as eleven Georgia Department of Corrections facilities have participated in a general strike. As reported by BlackAgendaReport.com: "The nine specific demands made by Georgia's striking prisoners in two press releases pointedly reflect many of the systemic failures of the U.S. regime of mass incarceration, and the utter disconnection of U.S. prisons from any notions of protecting or serving the public interest. Prisoners are demanding, in their own words, decent living conditions, adequate medical care and nutrition, educational and self-improvement opportunities, just parole decisions, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, and better access to their families."
DoC responded violently to the inmates non-violent sit down strike. Prison guards reportedly broke the ribs of inmates at an Augusta facility when they physically ejected them from the cells to force them to go to work. In a Capitol steps press conference Monday, representatives from the Georgia Green Party added the Party voice to a growing coalition demanding accountability from our state government and the protection of the human rights of those inmates committed to the 'custody, care and control' of the state prison apparatus.
The new CCA owned and operated Jenkins County Correctional facility is scheduled to open in 2012 and is being built on land which was originally purchased from the county ten years ago. Subsequently, Jenkins County tried to buy it back to build a high school. But CCA refused to relinquish the property and the county declined to use its eminent domain powers.
"This is indicative of the kind of control this private corporation has," said Michael McCullen, a member of the Augusta Mayors Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, who attended a rally in Millen immediately following the ground-breaking, "that they can utilize the local police to arrest people for peacefully protesting in a public space."
And just to underscore that point, five participants in the picket, conversing on a public sidewalk in downtown Millen on their way to lunch while they waited for bail to be set were ordered to 'disperse' and 'move along' by a Jenkins County sheriff while being interviewed by cell phone for this piece.
A local Jenkins County resident posted the $500 cash bond necessary to secure Mr. Fadel's release. While in custody, Mr. Fadel was questioned by investigators with the Department of Corrections about what role he might have in the ongoing work stop action in the prisons and whether he knew Elaine Brown, whose communications with the leadership of the inmate strike made it known to the public.
The Georgia Green Party is identifying a slate of candidates for the 2012 election cycle who are ready to challenge mass incarceration as public policy in Georgia.
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