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Bob Bensing, Hero, Dies Suddenly

The world lost a hero in the struggle for human rights on February 3, 1998. Southern Center for Human Rights lawyer Bob Bensing, 42, was returning to Atlanta, GA, from Valdosta State Prison after meeting with two prisoner plaintiffs. His car reportedly hydroplaned and crossed the median into oncoming traffic on I-75 and was struck by a truck. Bob Bensing was killed instantly. Human Rights intern, Andrew Harrison, was reported to be seriously injured.

Mr. Bensing was the lead attorney in the class action suit to expose Georgia prison guards' brutality and obtain a $283,000 settlement in favor of his prisoner clients. His "wealth of experience" and "dogged" legal work "brought the case to a very successful conclusion for the inmates and the 20 [prison] employees who testified to the brutality," said Stephen B. Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights. "It is unprecedented to have that many [prison employee] witnesses come forward. He was the man to break the code of silence."

Before joining the Southern Center for Human Rights in 1995, Mr. Bensing was managing attorney for Prisoners Legal Services of New York. The ACLU of Georgia honored him with its 1997 Civil Liberties Award.

"His whole time at the bar was spent serving people the most desperately in need," said Mr. Bright. "This was a guy who his idea of taking time off in representing prisoners was to represent Haitian refugees."

"He could see the big picture," said Dr. Mary Schlegel, Mr. Bensing's wife of 15 months. "He knew what was going on in East Timor and Angola and Germany and Moscow and France and could tie it all together and see how it was all connected to what was happening here."

It is with great sadness that we at PLN mark Bob Bensing's passing. He was a subscriber and friend of PLN , a shining light in the struggle for prisoner rights, and a tireless champion of justice and humanity.

Atlanta Constitution , Reader Mail

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