Georgia Prisons On Lockdown

ATLANTA — Authorities have locked down four Georgia prisons for five days for security reasons after discovering that inmates were launching a protest seeking better work and living conditions, corrections officials said Monday.

Authorities said the lockdown confines inmates to their cells and restricts them from visitation rights, telephone calls and visits to the commissary.

There have been no major incidents or issues reported at the four prisons, which will remain locked down until an internal investigation and a security review are completed, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Peggy Chapman.

She said the state’s other 26 prisons are operating normally.

“The department’s mission of maintaining safe and secure facilities is nonnegotiable and will not be jeopardized,” said Brian Owens, the department’s commissioner.

“The department will ensure appropriate safety measures are in place before the lockdown is lifted.”

The protest, which was launched Thursday, aimed to prod corrections officials into giving the prisoners better educational opportunities, improved health care and more access to their families, said Leila McDowell, vice president of communications for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Organizers say the protest was put together by inmates through a network of contraband cell phones.

Although Georgia inmates caught with cell phones could face up to five years in prison, corrections officials say smuggled phones are the leading contraband in state prisons.

The NAACP’s Georgia chapter staged a rally at the steps of the Georgia Capitol Monday urging Gov. Sonny Perdue and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to investigate the measures that guards used to force prisoners back to work.

They claim prison guards used violence to get prisoners out of their cells.

Corrections officials have denied the allegations.

Perdue’s office declined comment. The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said the agency has no jurisdiction over state prisons.

The lockdown took place at Hays State Prison in Trion, Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe, Telfair State Prison in Helena and Smith State Prison in Glennville.  for more, goto   CBS Atlanta