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CONTACT VISITS RESTORED FOR CLERGY + ACTION ALERT

posted Oct 15, 2010, 1:14 PM by Kathryn Hamoudah   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 8:29 AM by GFADP staff ]

GFADP is pleased to share with you some good news: the GA Dept of Corrections (GDC) is fully restoring clergy contact visits on death row this Monday, October 18. Four members of clergy met yesterday morning with Assistant Commissioner Derrick Schofield, Facilities Director Tim Ward and GC&DP Warden Steve Upton. During this meeting, Schofield directed Upton to restore clergy contact visits. The group plans on visiting on Monday and will let us know if there are any problems with his visit.

 The pastors also brought up the issue of family contact visits and the 23 hour lockdown at this morning’s meeting. Ward indicated that he is about to review the visitation and contact visit policy and should have recommendations by the end of the year. He was reserved in what he would commit to, but suggested that there may be changes that need to be made.

The pastors have decided that they will return to the GDC for a follow up meeting in January to check in on this process.

We are asking everyone contact their state legislators so that the GDC gets questions about these policies during the upcoming budget hearings. (Information is below)

 

We are delighted that this progress has been made but we still have miles to go before we sleep. Please forward this far and wide.

 

 

««« ACTION ALERT «««

Tell the Georgia Department of Corrections to
Fully Restore Family and Clergy Contact Visits on Death Row

 

“All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect
for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
International Covenant for Civil and Human Rights

 

·        On January 1, 2010, all contact visits between death row inmates and their families and clergy were eliminated at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA, which were previously allowed with families and others on the prisoners’ visitation lists, have been withdrawn, so that visits now take place behind a thick mesh screen . This measure is reported to have been imposed for security reasons and represents a large change in long-time policy.

·        As a result of advocacy carried out by members of GFADP and our allies, the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) made a small change in this policy this summer, allowing men on death row who have no disciplinary reports to have two contact visits per year (in June and December) with their families.  Clergy members are still not allowed contact visits. Though we appreciate the GDC’s step towards remedying this problem, this change doesn’t go far enough. Family and Clergy contact visits should be restored.

  • Contact visits nurture relationships with family, friends, clergy and other support people and are essential not only to the humanity of those in prison, but also in preserving and promoting prison safety.

  • Families and friends of those who have visitation privileges adhere to all prison policies. Individuals who do not comply with the rules should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Loved ones should not be at the receiving end of any internal problems within the prison.

 

  • The measures imposed on all death row inmates in Jackson, without regard to individual behavior, are unnecessarily punitive and may amount to inhumane treatment.  Such measures appear to be part of a systematic reduction in the in the quality of life for those on death row in Georgia who, several years ago, were allowed significantly more out-of-cell time and to engage in craftwork such as crocheting.

 

  • Men on death row are under lock down in their cells; allowed out only for two and a half hours twice a week for phone calls, showers, and time in the yard. A series of articles appeared in Georgia media, including the Atlanta Journal Constitution, in January, regarding hunger strikes and a suicide as a result of the elimination of contact visits and worsening conditions on death row.

 

Please take action now!

 

Contact your Georgia State Senator and Representative and urge them to support full restoration of contact visits between those on death row and their families and clergy.

 

Because the Department of Corrections will be testifying about their budget needs to members of the House and Senate through the fall and winter, we want to make sure that the legislators listening are informed about the problems with contact visits and that their constituents – that means us – are deeply concerned about this situation. Follow these steps to let your state representative and state senator know this is an important issue to you!

 

How to find your legislators

·        Go to http://votesmart.org/ Enter your 9 digit zip code into the box on the left side of the screen. If you don’t know your 9 digit zip code, you can look it up here: http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/welcome.jsp  

·        Under the heading “State Legislative”, you will see two people, your state senator and state representative. Click on their names to get their full contact information.

There are Three Ways to Talk to Your Legislator:

1.      By Mail or Email

a.      Remember to make the point of why you are writing in the first paragraph. State your feelings about this issue and whether it effects your personally.

b.      Let them know if you are a constituent.

c.       Always include your address, phone number and email address.

d.      Write a follow-up thank you letter once you here back from them.

2.      By Phone

a.      Leave a message saying that you are calling to discuss concerns about the prison system and your phone number.

b.      If you reach a staff member or aide, share your concerns with them and ask when you think the legislator might be available to speak with you.

 

3.      In Person 

a.      You can make an appointment to see them in their office at the Capitol or in their home district.

b.      Be courteous, brief, and confident.

c.       Let them know right away if you are a constituent.

d.      Tell them why you are there and why you care about this issue.

e.      Listen to their thoughts on the issue and answer any questions that they have. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, just say you will find out and get back to them. It’s better to be accurate that fast, so don’t shoot from the hip if you don’t know an answer!

f.        Leave the door open if they are not supportive; don’t be antagonistic or burn bridges.

g.      Thank them for their time.

 

Keep GFADP posted about your advocacy!

Shoot us an email at info@gfadp.org or call (404) 250-3540. If you need to reach us urgently for ay reason, call Kathryn Hamoudah or Sara Totonchi at the Southern Center for Human Rights at (404) 688-1202.

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