published Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Advocacy group sues Georgia prison system for records

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    Hays State Prison is located near Trion, Ga.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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An Atlanta-based advocacy group has sued the Georgia Department of Corrections, alleging violations of the Open Records Act by its attempt to charge a quarter of a million dollars for public records.

The Southern Center for Human Rights requested records in February and March regarding deaths and security lapses at Hays State Prison. Corrections officials responded with a fee of up to $80,000 for individual requests.

Corrections officials also said it would take more than 31,000 business hours to fulfill these requests — or the equivalent of 15 years of work for a person working eight hours per day, 50 weeks per year.

The Department of Corrections’ claim “is patently unreasonable and in violation of Georgia’s open government laws,” the center’s Sarah Geraghty said in a prepared statement.

Along with the nonprofit organization, RaHonda MacClain, mother of Damion MacClain, an inmate who was killed at Hays in December, is also part of the lawsuit that was filed today in Fulton County Superior Court.

The Southern Center requested the public records after violence at the maximum-security prison in Trion, Ga., escalated, with three prisoners killed in six weeks and after the Times Free Press highlighted security failures such as long-standing problems with broken locks.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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