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Georgia Prisons Enter Dark Ages

According to a PLN reader in Georgia, "Our ex-[Prisons] Commissioner, Dr. Allen Ault, got into a battle with Zig-Zag Zell Miller [Georgia's Governor]. Miller ordered him to cut-off TV's and phones during the day, cut the phone time to 10-minutes per call, and take out the weights. Ault quit, then parole board chairman Wayne Garner took over as Commissioner. The extent of Garner's prior management experience was as a small-town undertaker."

Within two weeks after assuming office in late December, Garner, a long-time crony of Miller, made a speech to the state legislature. "We have 60 to 65 percent of our inmate population that truly want to do better ... but there's another 30 to 35 percent that ain't fit to kill and I'm going to be there to accommodate them," he told lawmakers.

In a memo to prison wardens, Garner ordered them to immediately put 100% of their prisoners to work. Garner said no job is too insignificant even if it's "digging large holes or ditches, then filling them in, only to dig it up again." Garner's work program pleased state lawmakers who are "frustrated by the constant barrage of lawsuits filed against the state by inmates." Garner told them, "I hope with my work program they'll have less time to practice law."

Garner also told lawmakers that he intends to cut 1,000 middle-management jobs from the department in the next year and use the savings to hire more guards and offset other costs. To make it easier to hire the additional guards, Garner said that he'd make the entrance test for hiring easier, "because too many applicants flunk it."

He also unveiled a plan to make those prisoners who "ain't fit to kill" more "fit" by requiring them to walk four miles a day. It is not clear whether these walks will take place before or after the prisoners dig their holes and fill them back in again. "Inmates do not need to lift weights," he said. "We're not looking for Mr. and Mrs. America. We're looking for people with strong hearts and great lungs who don't cost so much to keep up."

However, in apparent contradiction to his commitment to strong hearts and great lungs, Garner is rescinding the ban on smoking by prisoners. Beginning February 1, prisoners will be allowed to smoke in designated outdoor areas. Garner explained the smoking ban reversal by pointing out that it was "an idea that looks wonderful on paper, but it's an absolute nightmare. You did not stop smoking in prisons. You raised the price of cigarettes to $20 a piece." Georgia is the second state to reinstate smoking in prisons after banning tobacco. Prison officials in Vermont did the same after they realized the smoking ban contributed to staff corruption because guards were willing to smuggle packs of cigarettes into the prison for $50 - $80 per pack.

As our GA correspondent said, "Look for some dark ages directives to come down in Georgia; Garner is the man to do it. It's gonna get raw in the Peach State, just in time for the Olympics [coming to Atlanta] this summer."

Sources: Reader Mail, Corrections Digest

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