ATLANTA - Blood-soaked beds, inedible meals, and rat infestations--those are the conditions advocates and family members claim prisoners are subjected to inside facilities run by Georgia's Department of Corrections.
Members of the House Democratic Caucus Committee on Crisis in Prisons held a hearing at the state Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
"Ultimately the goal today for this committee and in our ongoing advocacy both inside this building and outside this building, is to raise [...] the profile of this set of issues to a level of awareness where the public will demand the type of change that we need, which is frankly, no less than a complete overhaul of the Georgia Department of Corrections," said state Rep. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, one of the committee's co-chairs.
Rep. McLaurin said advocacy groups like the Southern Center for Human Rights started to sound the alarm last year about the state of Georgia's prisons.
"In my own 20 years on the frontlines of prison advocacy in Georgia, I have never seen such horrific, chaotic, and violent conditions in Georgia prisons," said Sara Totonchi, executive director for the Southern Center for Human Rights. "The violence, the treatment of people who are ill, and the apathy of those who run these facilities are unconscionable and unacceptable."
Jennifer Bradley told lawmakers she lost her son, Carrington Frye, just months before his scheduled release. Another inmate allegedly stabbed Frye at Macon State Prison in March 2020. Bradley said her son, known as "Sip," bled out for more than half an hour before help arrived.
She has started a petition calling for reforms in Georgia's prisons.
"There has been a grave injustice done to me and my family by the Georgia Department of Corrections," said Bradley. "It is one of my most fervent prayers today that out of Sip's blood and out of my family's devastation and pain, come a new and improved system that will turn Georgia's Department of Corrections from places of retribution into place of true rehabilitation and restoration."
The hearing comes a week after the Department of Justice announced it has opened a civil rights investigation into Georgia's prisons focused on prisoner-on-prisoner violence.
The Georgia Department of Corrections issued a statement to FOX 5:
"The GDC is committed to the safety of all of the offenders in its custody and denies that it has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating their civil rights or failing to protect them from harm due to violence. This commitment includes the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) prisoners from sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. We are proud of the service and dedication of our team during these unprecedented challenges."
Rep. McLaurin said the committee plans to continue the conversation about reform with the GDC, the governor, and their fellow lawmakers.