published Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Georgia inmates strike in fight for pay

by Adam Crisp
  • photo
    Staff File Photo by Chad McClure/Chattanooga Times Free Press Inmates at Hays State Prison make their way back to their housing area in this file photo.

Georgia inmates are reportedly striking across the state, refusing to go out on work details or perform chores until they are paid or see improved living conditions.

Georgia corrections officials wouldn't confirm or deny a strike Monday, but said four prisons across the state were on lockdown for a fifth day after they got wind of a rumored protest late last week.

The group organizing the strike contends that at least four state prisons across Georgia are still participating in the strike, including Hays State Prison an hour south of Chattanooga in Trion. Along with Hays, other prisons on lockdown are Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe, Telfair State Prison in Helena and Smith State Prison in Glennville.

At various points over the last five days, the group has said inmates in anywhere from six to 11 prisons are striking.

Going by the name "Concerned Coalition," strike organizers say they won't settle for anything less than payment for inmates who perform work while incarcerated. The group, consisting of three women from Atlanta and South Georgia, recently partnered with the Georgia NAACP, which is calling for a federal investigation into prison conditions in Georgia.

"These men are pretty much committed," said Elaine Brown, a spokeswoman for the group organizing the strike. "They are behind walls, their lives are totally controlled and they are being asked to work for free ... and are treated like animals. I don't see how this is not an obvious human rights issue."

Inmates have reportedly organized the strikes through contraband cell phones smuggled into facilities. Brown said she was still in contact with inmates Monday.

Among prisoners' demands are a "living wage," educational opportunities, increased visitation and improved food and facilities, according to a list of demands distributed to media.

But at the top of their demands is the living wage, Brown said.

"If they want to get paid, they shouldn't commit crimes," said state Sen. Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, chairman of the Senate Institutions and Property Committee, which oversees prisons.

Besides, he said, "If we started paying inmates, we'd also start charging them for room and board, as well. They ought to be careful what they ask for."

Inmates perform road cleanup for states and local governments, and they provide labor to a handful of prison-run enterprises that make furniture, garments, signs and printed products.

Currently, Georgia does not pay inmates anything for their work, but Grant said inmates are not required to participate in work details.

Tennessee, on the other hand, pays inmates between 17 cents and 54 cents per hour for work performed while incarcerated, according to a Department of Correction spokeswoman.

"I don't think inmates in Georgia have ever been paid," said Georgia Rep. Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, who serves on the state House Institutions and Property Committee. "After all, they are behind those prison walls for a reason. They are there to make restitution to society for whatever their crime was."

Brown said Monday that a deputy commissioner of corrections has agreed to meet with her group and members of the Georgia NAACP.

But political will to pay inmates any wage at all is very low, Reece said.

"I can't see paying inmates anything," Reece said. "I would much rather take that money and put 25 more state troopers on the highway."

She said meals and living conditions in Georgia prisons are, to her knowledge, in line with federal regulations. And she said some inmates who take part in special work programs can be paid up to $7.25 an hour, but such programs are available only to model inmates.

"Most of the men that I have encountered on (unpaid) work details take real pride in their work and are appreciative of the chance to work," Reece said. "If they weren't out working, they'd just be sitting behind the fence."

Security has been tightened at the four prisons on lockdown since Thursday, corrections officials said. There have been no major incidents or issues reported, a department news release stated.

"During the lockdown, inmates are confined to their cells and there is no visitation, telephone calls or commissary visits," Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kristen Stancil said in the release. "Georgia's 26 other state prisons are operating under normal conditions."

Once a security assessment is complete, some privileges could be restored, officials said.

"The department's mission of maintaining safe and secure facilities is non-negotiable and will not be jeopardized," said Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens. "The department will ensure appropriate safety measures are in place before the lockdown is lifted."

Contact staff writer Adam Crisp at or 423-757-6323. Follow him on Twitter at

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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ann said...

I do not support people who break the law,but i do disagree with our system,as one said in the interview they were been punished for their crime and to pay,that is true but when they pay that by been locked up they should be free when they get out and not have all these probation fees,court cost and everything else that the court can attach to them,this is not right, then they label them as unfit,and treat them worse then animals and they come out of there meaner than ever because of the way they have been treated,instead of that kind of treatment try to learn them skills to help when they get out talk to them like they can be different don't curse and beat them or take from them,they are still humans,and can be better if the prison keepers would treat them in that manner,i know their job is hard but they also make it harder by treating these prisoners like dirt,it has been proven by some prisons been kind to their prisoners and giving them privilege's that they all get alone better have less fights and help each other,it wouldn't hurt to try that

December 14, 2010 at 1:14 a.m.
rockman12 said...

Anyone that is in prison gave up their right to earn a paycheck. They had a chance to earn one as a productive member of society and they chose to be lazy. If they want pay then they should be charged for everything just like the law abiding, tax paying, productive members of society that pay to support them now. They need to be charged for rent, food, electric, water, clothing, medical care, dental care, prescriptions, membership fees to use the prisons recreational facilities, cable, personal hygiene products, an education, etc. They get all this for free while taxpayers pay the bill. They can also pay for the court cost for trial, the lost income of the jury members that had to hear the case, the public defenders bill, the prosecutors bill and fees, and restitution to the victim. Go ahead and pay them minimum wage like they want and charge them and don't let them out until they pay their bill in full. Once they have to pay the bills for their upkeep I bet they will stop complaining. Even behind bars they want their cake and to eat it too. To all potential criminals out there, if you want a paycheck, go find a job instead of committing a crime and you won't have to worry about working for "free".

December 14, 2010 at 2:29 a.m.

Sen. Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville is either has no idea what he's talking about since his information is fed to him from a GA Dept of Corrections representative or he's telling a bold faced lie. Able bodied inmates that don't have any mental or physical health issues have to work if they're assigned or they go to the hole, no exceptions. Don't think for one moment that the FBI & the Dept of Justice aren't taking notes on this article. I really love this topic very much as well would like to ask that while the FBI is investigating when they do show up, that they also make sure to put under the microscope why 3 inmates at the Coffee Correctional Facility were killed over a 2 week period just prior to the lockdown which very characteristically wasn't even publicized in the mainstream media as usual in that the GA Dept of Corrections is notoriously known for sweeping anything that would make them to make them look bad under the carpet. I'd love to be the fly on the wall watching when everyone from the Commissioner on down starts running around as if an ant bed were stirred up when they show up. All the butt kissing & "Yes Sir, No Sir" isn't going to work when the impartial & unbiased Feds show up. All the remarks that are being made is merely fanning the flame, so just keep talking adding gasoline to the fire when it sparks. It's going to be extremely ugly as well as profoundly embarrassing for the GDC & head will roll big time. You Guys have no inkling whatsoever what you've started here, it's not going away either. Just keep talking & I'll keep posting to add more pertinent information for reader of this article & when the Truth is eventually revealed & let me reiterate that it "WILL" be revealed, go sit down somewhere & just shut up.

December 14, 2010 at 3:15 a.m.
XMarine said...

Go ahead & pay them minimum wage.That will prepare them for the real world after they are released from prison.

December 14, 2010 at 7:23 a.m.
GreenKepi said...

Why not pay them 'unemployment'...that'll prepare them for the 'real world'....

December 14, 2010 at 7:41 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Sen. Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville must have escaped from that state hospital that used to be down there. Changing lives is a hard job but treat someone like an animal inside prison and expect to get that behavior back from them outside prison.

These guys in jail should have no free ride, but strict and well developed expectations and programs aimed at being sure we don't see them come back. Even if such programs were 25% successful it would probably double or triple the number who do not come back, saving money for all. Locking folks up and letting the jailhouse be the schoolhouse for learning to do worse things is a dead end street for us all.

The fact the Dept of Corrections (sic) will not comment is pretty fishy to me.

December 14, 2010 at 7:59 a.m.
abs2215 said...

You don't like the conditions in jail, then its simple. STAY OUT!! Teachers salaries are being cut, so that what, we can pay inmates more because they feel they deserve it? Isn't work detail a privilege in jail? It's an opportunity to get outside and feel the sun and smell the flowers. Come on people get your priorities straight. Once you are convicted of a crime you lose privileges and rights and really should lose your opinion!

December 14, 2010 at 8:17 a.m.
TinaFrench said...

The most important thing I read in this article is that the strike is being organized with contraband telephones. What I see is that they are still breaking the law, even in prison. Further, the people "on the outside", condone this activity and are actually co-conspirators.

December 14, 2010 at 9:22 a.m.
alohaboy said...

Form a union and call the NLRB.

December 14, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.
Jellybean said...

As the mother of one of the Georgia inmates sounds like there is a few things people need to know. #1 I send money to pay for medical, dental and prescription.#2- 2 meals a day not 3.#3 phone calls cost me $17.00 for 10 min. I also send money for food, soap, shampoo,deodorant, shoes,etc. A lot of families can not afford this so many do without. If you commit a crime in N. Georgia you must be housed south of Atlanta is what I have been told. So to see my son its 3 to 5 hours driving each way.GDC needs a lot of changes.

December 14, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.
najones75 said...

That's your son's problem and his fault...not the tax payers, Jellybean.

December 14, 2010 at 12:54 p.m.
georgiagirls said...

In the first place, if you are in a Georgia State Prison or county jail, everything is NOT free. You pay for any medical that you get if you are lucky enought to even get to see a doctor. You get 2 meals a day, one spoon full of what ever is being offered. Clothing you have to buy,anything needed to stay clean, you buy! Never is your loved one put in a prison close to where they can have visits. Non-Violent prisoners are mixed with violent prisoners. Georgia Prisons are the worst in the U.S.A... The Parole Board does not do their job in Atlanta. If a person breaks parole and signs a wavier for 6 months more time, it takes the Parole Board 10 months to review it. And they talk bout over crowding. Sen. Johnny Grant is a liar when he said that inmates are not required to work.Geargia Rep.Barbara Massey Reece needs to take her meals at the prison for a day or two and spend one day in the conditions that she said was in line with federal regulations, maybe if she did, the regulations might be amended.Im sure she has 25 friends that she could put in those state trooper jobs. All of these people and the system its self has needed to be investigated for along time and I hope it happens soon. For the abs2215 comment..All I hear any more about teachers is all negitive,from what I see, some teachers should be right in there with the rest of the inmates, but they are not, because they are female. A male teacher would never get away with what the females do.In my opinion, teachers are getting paid to commit crimes,inmates are paying for their crimes.

December 14, 2010 at 1:46 p.m.
lkkksk said...

If you do the crime...then you must do the time. However, as a relative to an inmate at Macon State Prison....I hear first hand what he has to go through. There are only two meals per day. Money sent to inmates is not cheap. During visitation days, the room is cold and the chairs are uncomfortable. No physical interaction with the inmates and you have to sit the entire time. Inmates are not allowed to walk around or anything. They are searched and the families are there is no need to have those retrictions during visitation. He received his papers back in August to transfer to the half-way house but is still waiting. For those who want to criticize those who are in prison.....please don't judge....WE ARE ALL ONE STEP AWAY from doing something we never thought we would ever do.

December 14, 2010 at 2:10 p.m.
nurseforjustice said...

Maybe Jellybean shouls smuggle a cell phone to her son. It would be cheaper.

December 14, 2010 at 2:19 p.m.
whoknows said...

Yeah, we shouldn't criticize those in prison... the theives, rapists, murderers, cheats and swindlers are not to blame. Society pushed them to it. We should give them all the luxuries of a country club.

Whatever. You commit the crime, you face the consequences. Maybe the rate of repeat offenders wouldn't be so bad if conditions in prison were worse. Two meals a day is too much. They should get one decent helping of mush a day. Enough to keep them healthy enough to make them work at a job for no pay. A job that does something good for the rest of society. Visitation should be limited and very restricted. They don't deserve the comfort of their families and friends when they stole the comfort from someone else's family or friends. They are criminals and should be treated as such. Why on earth should they be coddled and handed everything they want at the expense of those they tried to steal life and liberty from???

December 14, 2010 at 2:35 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

I am presuming I am reading comments from the unchurched. Certainly few Christians appear to be among them. I'm sure none of you every stole candy, or ran a red light or stop sign, bought moonshine or contraband cigarettes or lied on your income tax or ...gave someone the benefit of a doubt.

December 14, 2010 at 2:45 p.m.
nurseforjustice said...

and I am sure, inquiringmind, that none of those prisoners are there for those minor infractions. Just becuase someone is a christian doesn't mean that there are not consequences to your actions.

I believe that there should be a small rationing of at least 2 meals a day but also paid by the family. I think every thing that a prisoner gets should be paid by the family. And if they can't pay, then the prisoner should be made to work to pay for his own room and board. And as the Bible says, if you don't work, you don't' eat.

December 14, 2010 at 2:56 p.m.
rockman12 said...

Well said whoknows. As far as all the people commenting that they have a family member in prison, GET OFF THE PITY PARTY WAGON!! Maybe you should have done more to keep them on the right side of the law. An inmates stay should be so miserable and degrading that they never want to go back to prison. Georgia's repeat offender rate is 40%. Apparently prison life in GA isn't that bad if 40% of them go back. As for Jellybean, It cost $17,800 in 2009 to house an inmate. Unless your payment was at least that much, taxpayers paid for YOUR child's upkeep. They CHOSE a career in crime. They shouldn't complain about the payment for their career decision. If they wanted a paycheck, or to live close to their families they should have chosen a career in criminal justice instead. Furthermore, did those same inmates give any consideration to how their victims felt, the fact that their victim were violated and had their civil rights taken from them. Most victims will relive the criminal act every day of their lives. It will steal their hopes, dreams and happiness. Criminals deserve to be treated like animals because that is exactly what they are. I have no pity for them and they just continue to leach off of society.

December 14, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.
georgiagirls said...

For nurseforjustice..I hope someone you love goes to a Georgia prison and you have to pay for everything they need. The inmates do work and still dont get enough food. As for the Bible...Let the person without sin cast the first stone. How unfeeling you are and I hope you are not a real nurse and if you are you must work for the D.O.C...

December 14, 2010 at 3:24 p.m.
nurseforjustice said...

gg, i am a real nurse but still have opinions. You know nothing about me except I am a nurse and you think I am unfeeling. How judgemental of YOU! I probably have more compassion in my little finger than you do in your whole body, (but I digress). I am not casting stones but simply giving my opinion on how criminals bills should be paid for. No one in prison should ever get paid on top of their room and board for working in prison. How ridiculous. Prison is a punishment, not a Holiday Inn. Give me a break.

December 14, 2010 at 3:42 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

What we have here, is failure to communicate. Prison is punishment. Put them on chain gangs, if they don't work, they don't eat. That should help provide motivation.

December 14, 2010 at 4 p.m.
georgiagirls said...

I would give you a break if you made any since and as for not knowing you, Im glad, and hope I never have you as a nurse.As for compassion, I dont think you have a little finger ( but I digress) So I will look for a nurse without a finger in any hospital I go in.

December 14, 2010 at 4:05 p.m.
rockman12 said...

To inquiringmind, I'm was raised to go to church, so I am "churched". I haven't been to one since I learned to think for my self. I am the one responsible for my own decisions. Based on your comments, apparently you slept in church. The teaching of the bible basically say "that no man may judge another". You, my friend, just violated the same beliefs you tried to preach. There is no room for religion in a discussion about a justice system due to the fact it violates the teaching of the bible. Eight to twelve people passing judgement against another. Direct violation of the bible. On top of that, most of the people in prison are there because they violated at least one of the ten commandments. On top of that I don't buy moonshine, I go buy vodka from a liquor store, I buy my cigarettes from the same store as I buy gas, the light was yellow when I went under it, I observe the rolling stop principle (cuts down on pollution and increases gas mileage), I don't like sweet foods, what the government doesn't know won't kill them, and if you give someone the benefit of the doubt they will do it again. I use the one strike policy.

December 14, 2010 at 4:05 p.m.
ann said...


December 14, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.
Musicman375 said...


December 14, 2010 at 4:48 p.m.
shepherd100 said...

Hey i have a piece of advice for you inmates. Stop breaking the law. DUHHHH. I dont fell a bit sorry for any of you trashy creeps. How about behaving. My goodness. Is this not common sense. Geez

December 14, 2010 at 4:49 p.m.
BooWho said...

I can really relate to this story. I am dissatisfied with my pay and living conditions. I have to pay my own medical and dental costs. I get ZERO free meals a day. I'M GOING ON STRIKE!!! Oh wait, what, I'm FIRED???? Wow, life as a responsible law abiding citizen is tough! Guess I'll go commit some crimes, at least life in the slammer is SECURE.

December 14, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.
shepherd100 said...

I would love to see our criminal justice system get harder on criminals. Especially violent ones and ones that involve drugs. We pat em on the back. GIve em a room, free meals, free health care, etc and then let em back out in society to do it all over again. I say we need to execute every violent criminal in this sorry country or at the very least give em life in prison in solitary confinement. No outside and 1 meal a day. You would see the streets of America start to clean up really GD quickly i gurantee you that. Get touch America. Start by Getting rid of ACLU.

December 14, 2010 at 5:08 p.m.

This article should have been saved for April 1.

December 14, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.
jeepdog said...

I agree with a lot of the comments... A lot of us do not agree with our situation (job, marital status, etc.), but do we just "go on strike" if we don't like it. Most of us think before we take a short-cut or make a bad decision. The difference is, most of us are law-abiding and tax paying citizens whose voice deserves to be heard. Each prisoner already cost us $ 65,000-70,000 and year and they want to be paid or they are going to strike due to the conditions of JAIL! It is punishment for committing a crime that could have been prevented. Should we pay to them shot somebody, steal, or give illegal drugs to a fifteen year-old... This is truly ridiculous. Jails should be up to a acceptable sanitary standard, but not similar to the Atlanta Golf and Country Club.

I would say a lot of prisoners (involved in this strike) live better lives than some of our struggling Americans that truly try to provide for their family and our society.

December 14, 2010 at 7:25 p.m.
nurseforjustice said...

gg, again, you will never know if I take care of you or not,just like I will never know if I take care of you. But if I do, you will receive the very best of care because I am very good at what I do, if I do say so myself. Being an honest, hard working, well educated nurse that knows how to stay out of prison does have it's advantages. I am paid very well for what I do and no one hands me anything.

here's to life without bars, Nurseforjustice

December 14, 2010 at 7:50 p.m.
heneh said...

Someone tell them they are in jail. It is not a place you want to find yourself. Next time think about how bad this is and don't do the crime.

December 14, 2010 at 8:24 p.m.
NObama12 said...

Strike?? Is there a prisoner's Union now?

December 14, 2010 at 9:39 p.m.
macbolvia said...

Why should we pay them? We feed them, give them free internet, TV, A/C and heat. I think there may even be a free education thrown in. To top it off they are not required to work if they do not want to. I think America has gone crazy making it easier on the criminals. I am sure the ACLU ill be behind this one.

December 14, 2010 at 9:42 p.m.
GARRS said...

How about we pay them UP TO 4 dollars per hour For the highest paying jobs, then let them pay the state back for their own feeding and houseing cost, say 35 bucks per day?

Also let them pay cash fines for misconduct, and for contraban.

Sounds like a reduction in prison costs to me. They will get a few bucks,pay their own way, and if they screw up, they go into a negatave.

I can really care less, id rather line them all up, and run them over a cliff, problem solved.

December 14, 2010 at 9:43 p.m.
Humphrey said...

perspective, point of view, its a funny thing. If China requires prisoners to work in factories for no pay, how many call it "slave labor" and complains about totalitarian communists taking away civil rights?

Not saying they should or shouldn't be paid - heck I don't know - just saying that point of view on it is a funny thing.

December 14, 2010 at 10:10 p.m.
anonymight said...

This is the funniest thing I've ever read.

"They are behind walls, their lives are totally controlled and they are being asked to work for free ... and are treated like animals. I don't see how this is not an obvious human rights issue." --- Of course they are being treated like animals. THEY ARE ANIMALS. They are feral homo sapiens. They are being separated from us for our safety.

"Among prisoners' demands are a "living wage," educational opportunities, increased visitation and improved food and facilities, according to a list of demands distributed to media." I wonder what they want Santa to bring them for Christmas?

We treat them better than they treated us. That is as "Christian" as I am willing to get. Look at any statistical study. Their life expectancy is better than their criminal peers who escape the long arm of the law. They are healthier, cleaner, fitter, better educated, and better prepared than their free criminal counterparts. I guess until prisons are like Hiltons the bleeding hearts will pine away at the injustice of it all.

December 14, 2010 at 11:27 p.m.
Godlessliberal said...

The lack of empathy here is just astounding. People commit crimes because they seem like the best course of action. They are either desperate, ignorant, or imbalanced. If you actually want to reduce crime, you'll find that education is cheaper than incarceration. Incarceration just piles all these people together to make an environment that perpetuates the criminal behavior.

Instead, there's too much money to be made in prisons now. Also, criminalizing people makes them easier to control.

December 15, 2010 at 7:38 a.m.
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