Community Coalition Meets With GA Corrections Officials, Visits First Prison. What Would Dr. King Say or Do?

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, with assistance from Ingemar Smith

Last Friday members of the Concerned Coaltion to Protect Prisoner Rights met with Georgia correctional officials. The following Monday they commenced the first of a series of fact finding visits to the state's correctional institutions, seeking the reasons and right response to the stand of inmates demanding their human rights. Dr. King's annual holiday is coming up too. What would he say about the prisoners and the nation's misguided public policy of mass incarceration? What would he do, and what should we?

Community Coalition Meets With GA Corrections Officials, Visits First Prison. What Would Dr. King Say or Do?

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon with assistance from Ingemar Smith

'The prisoners have done all they can do now. It's up to us to build a movement out here that can make the changes which have to be made.'”

Eight days after the start of Georgia's historic prisoner's strike, in which thousands of inmates in at least six prisons refused to leave their cells, demanding wages for work, education and self-improvement programs, medical care, better access to their families and more, representatives of the communities the inmates came from met in downtown Atlanta with state corrections officials. The community delegation, calling itself the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners Rights, was headed by Ed Dubose of the NAACP of Georgia's state conference, and included representatives from the US Human Rights Organization, the Nation of Islam, the Green Party of Georgia, The Ordinary Peoples Society, and attorneys from the ACLU of Georgia, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and elsewhere, along with state representative Roberta Abdul-Salaam.

State officials claimed they knew about the strike action well in advance, and said they locked the institutions down as a preemptive measure. They declared they'd confiscated more than a hundred cell phones, mostly in public places, and identified dozens of inmates whom they believed were leaders of the strike. They admitted confining these inmates to isolation and in some cases transferring them to other institutions.

The coalition asserted that brutal reprisals were being taken against nonviolent strikers by prison authorities, and that constant threats being made against inmates. These incidents, the coalition insisted, along with the vast gulf between the reasonable demands of the inmates and some of the well-known conditions in the state's penal institutions made the immediate entry into the affected prisons by a fact finding team of advocates, community representatives and attorneys at the earliest moment an absolute necessity. The meeting adjourned awaiting the state's decision. And late Friday afternoon, state corrections officials agreed to access by a small number of delegated observers, who would visit Macon State Prison, some two hours south of Atlanta the following Monday.

The observers who visited Macon State on December 20 would not comment on what they saw and heard, except to confirm that they did interview staff and prisoners for about five hours. Macon State, some said, was the institution chosen by the Department of Corrections. Subsequent visits would have to be made to other institutions, they confirmed, including some of those where the alleged strike leaders were being held.

We understand where we are and how we got here,” explained Rev. Kenny Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society (TOPS) after his visit to Macon State. A former prisoner himself who spent fourteen years behind the walls, Glasgow runs a series of re-entry programs for former inmates in Georgia and Alabama. “We only got to sit down with correctional officials, we only gained access to the prisons because of the courageous stand of those behind the walls. It was their willingness to work together across different lines and to sacrifice the very limited freedom and safety they have that got us to this point. The prisoners have done all they can do now. It's up to us to build a movement out here that can make the changes which have to be made.”

The Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners Rights is expected to request to visit at least one more Georgia penal institution before the year ends to continue its fact finding process. Coalition spokespeople have been deluged with messages of solidarity and support from across the country and around the world. Meetings, marches and demonstrations have taken place in Oakland, Detroit, and New York and elsewhere. The Center for Constitutional Rights and other outfits are circulating online petitions which have garnered thousands of signatures in support of the prisoners. Those wishing to contact the Coalition via email can do so at concernedcoalitionga(at)

Any holiday celebration, any dinner, parade, or commemoration of Dr. King's life and work that does not embrace the cause of Georgia's and the nation's prisoners... is an empty one...”

In about three weeks we'll all be celebrating the January 15 anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's birth. Many have remarked on the great distance between the actual life and work of Dr. King and the empty plaster saint of nonviolence that some have turned him into. The truth is that the living Marin Luther King was a fearless opponent of injustice, a man unafraid of endorsing unpopular causes, so long as these causes were just. If Dr. King were alive today he would wrap his arms around the cause of Georgia's and this nation's prisoners. Work without wages is indeed close to slavery. Even if the 13th Amendment permits “involuntary servitude” of those convicted of crimes Dr. King might rightly observe, that this was passed almost a century and a half ago, and that many things “legal” are neither moral nor advisable.

The U.S. has four and half percent of the world's population and nearly twenty five percent of its prisoners. Georgia leads the nation with an astounding one in thirteen of its adult citizens in prisons and jails, or under court and correctional supervision, thanks to innovations like the privatization of misdemeanor probations. When advocating ever-longer sentences becomes a standard campaign tactic for ambitious politicians, when fortunes are made overcharging inmate families for phone calls and raking off ten percent and more of paltry funds families send their loved ones, when prisons become growth industries with their own lobbyists, punishment has become a crime.

Any holiday celebration, any dinner, parade, or commemoration of Dr. King's life and work that does not embrace the cause of Georgia's and the nation's prisoners, that does not critically examine the facts America's current policy of mass incarceration is an empty one, a hollow mockery of the man King was and the movement he stood for. More than twenty thousand in Atlanta march in observance of Dr. King's life and work every year. The shiny new sanctuary of Ebeneezer Baptist Church is always filled with dignitaries on that day. Let's see how many signs there are outside the church supporting the prisoners on King's day in Atlanta and around the country. And let's see if the dignitaries inside Ebeneezer can even bring themselves to mention the people behind the walls, the locked down and and the left out, who are truly Dr. King's people. And ours.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor of Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)

1 Comment

What Might Dr MLK Say about the Prison Industrial Complex....

Here is what Rev Dr King might say about the Prison Industrial Complex that has ensnared so many of our people...

"The interrelationship of the triplets of evil of: Racism (since his death the prison population has exploded & gone from majority white men to majority  Black & Brown men), Economic Exploitation (The Prison Industrial Complex is traded on Wall St), and Militarism (Imperialism & The Police State)... " Rev Dr Martin Luther King- April 4th 1967

'A threat to [true] Freedom & [real] Justice ANY-Where- is a threat to Freedom & Justice EVERY-Where’... Rev Dr Martin Luther King

'And the Lord said- I was hungry but you refused to feed me, I was homeless & out in the street but you refused to give me shelter, I was sick but you denied me medical care, I was unjustly imprisoned &/or treated unjustly in prison because you denied me justice...  Verily I say... since you haven't looked out for the welfare of the least of [my people], then you have neglected & abused ME... And those who do so shall face condemnation...' Para-Quote from Mat- 25th Chap, verses 42 to 46


There has been no major Nation wide attention on prison conditions [w some brief exceptions] by either the so-called ‘liberal’ MSNM News or even so-called 'leftist' media since Attica 4 DECADES Ago. Take Gitmo whom some on the so-called 'Left' are making a fuss [rightfully so] about how detainees are deprived of their rights & even tortured. But the first time I heard of Gitmo was during the Haitian Boat Crisises [IE: 1980s w Popa Doc's reign of terror & Reagan / Bush Sr Gitmotizing those Haitians fleeing the terror; then again in the 1990s when Mr CIA Bush Sr pulled a coup on Pres Aristide & then responded to Haitians fleeing the resulting terror by again Gitmotizing them], but only a few really paid attention then. So now Gitmo has become the very symbol of the US' Fake WAR on TERROR & TORTURE Policy. AND- Speaking of Torture- why has it been so easy for high officials to perpetrate it [w the Bush / Cheney-ites in particular- actually publicly boasting about it]??? Because it has been common practice in the US' Criminal Justice / Prison Industrial Complex. Recently an ex-CPD Police Lt Jon Burge was convicted of perjury for regularly beating & torturing confessions out of Black & Brown prisoners, some who were then eagerly prosecuted & put on death row by none-other than the Current Mayor of Chicago Rich Daley Jr- when he was Cook County States Attorney. Much of this NOTORIOUS affair came to light after it was discovered in the late 1990s early 2000s that- out of 25 prisoners in IL scheduled to be executed- 13 of THEM WERE NOT-GUILTY!!! The situation was so outrageous that Ex- IL Gov George Ryan [a conservative Republican] felt morally compelled to call a moratorium on IL's death penalty. He then went on Oprah's show w some of those exonerated & spoke about how prisoners [usually Black & Brown] were regularly rail-roaded, beaten & TORTURED into confessing to crimes they didn't do -&- how Burge's squad was notorious for this. So finally Burge gets convicted this yr- not of Torture but of perjury- some 25 - 30 yrs after the fact. [NOTE: Oprah recently had the nerve (or was compelled) to have that Discredited Notorious Racist Perjuring Thug ex-Cop Mark Fuhrman - who crudely boasted {on tape} how he regularly planted evidence on & beat-up & threw nigger suspects down flights of stairs w their hands cuffed behind their backs... on her show & basically handle him w kid gloves - letting him slide w apologizing for saying the N-Word - like that's really the main issue w what he said on those tapes!!! - SEE: . If you replaced Black or Afro-American for all 42Xs Fuhrman said nigger on those tapes - you should still be almost as outraged at their implications!]  

Many tactics [IE: extreme solitary isolation, use of cold water & cold temperature conditions, prolonged sleep deprivation, nakedness & sexual humiliation, etc {these techniques can cause extreme distress without leaving tell-tale marks & bruises] that have use regularly by US police / prison officials are the same ones used at Gitmo, Abu-Gharaib Iraq, Bahgram Afghan, etc. Because police & prison officials have commonly used these [torture] tactics against Black & Brown inmates in the US’ Criminal Justice Industry / Prison Industrial Complex for DECADES [Note: Since Dr King's death & Attica- the prison population has gone from majority white to majority Black & Brown as well as EXPLODED], then Of COURSE Gov't officials have no compunction about using TORTURE on foreign non-European / non-Christian prisoners of the Gov't's Fake War on Terror, and then Boast about it on MSNM News Outlets. 

NOTE: Dr King had a lot of [not so flattering] things say about the [so-called 'liberal'] main stream press in his iconic speech against the Vietnam War, given 1 year to the day [April 4th 1967] before his assassination - a speech which the MSNM News always manages to avoid even referring to when they commemorate him.