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The Georgia 37 are at least 38. And we now know one of their names

On December 17th, 2010, in a meeting with representatives of over a dozen advocacy and community groups in Georgia, Timothy Ward, Facilities Director with the Department of Corrections acknowledged that 37 inmates had been subjected to protective custody on suspicion of having served as instigators of the strike, based on evidence that contraband cell phones had been confiscated from their personal property.

Since then a 38th inmate has been sent to the Georgia Diagnostics Center in Jackson Georgia, home of Georgia's death row and one of the three SuperMax units whose construction and initial staffing were added to the budget in the mid nineties in a request by Zell Miller. The other two SuperMax units in the Georgia DoC were built at Washington State Prison and Reidsville State Prison. Coincidentally, those are also the two prisons identified of the three acknowledged as the recipients of those 37.

Shawn Whatley has since February 9th lived in a 4' by 6' plexiglass cell, subjected to 24/7 audio and video monitoring. The DoC's explanation of the conditions of his confinement is that he is on a suicide watch.

But he and his mother insist that he is NOT on a hunger strike, but is living in fear that the Department of Corrections intends for him to be dead. Three uniformed staff of the DoC beat him and left him with blood in his urine on January 13th. Shawn fears that the medicine and meals provided to him by Georgia's Corrections Department personnel will be used to poison him, and so is living without his heart medicine and meals. He is asking to be moved to the Federal system, so that he need not worry about Commissioner Owens and his staff trying to kill him, instead of living out the life sentence which the judge has already imposed.

Shawn Whatley, labeled an instigator by the DoC may or may not be one of the organizers of the December stop-work action which took place in Georgia's prisons. Given the grave danger of retribution, and the extreme conditions of control exerted over him, such that his visits with his mother are supervised by uniformed employees of the DoC, it is possible we may never know. What we do know is that Eljeer Hawkins has identified him as the inmate he interviewed by cell phone about the conditions which gave rise to that strike. That interview is published here as both an audio clip and a written transcript.

We also know that he was subjected to a criminal assault on January 12th by uniformed officers of the Department of Corrections. We know that they severely beat him. We know that they denied him medical care in the aftermath of that assault while he still had blood in his urine. We know that they denied his mother an opportunity to visit him until the external bruises had healed. We know that he fears that the DoC has and may again poison him. We know Mr. Whatley is requesting intervention and transfer into the Federal system in order to protect his own life.

We also know that at least thirty-seven others are likely similarly situated, suffering the retribution of those charged with their care.

I urge everyone who reads this to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and demand the humane treatment of Shawn Whatley and these others accused of instigating the stop-work action. As citizens of Georgia, we know that Corrections officials -- from the guards who assaulted Shawn Whatley to Commissioner Owens whose Department has covered up these crimes, act in our names. They are paid with our tax dollars. And our silence is tantamount to our complicity in the ongoing torture of these suspected strike organizers.

The Georgia-37 are at least 38. They each have families. Shawn Whatley's family attended our February 27th forum on Challenging Corporate Personhood and Mass Incarceration. His mother joined 2004 Green Party Presidential nominee David Cobb and Managing Editor Bruce Dixon on the panel that evening. Choking back tears, she told the story of the abuse her son endures. We now know the name of at least one of these men. It is vitally important that we learn the identities of the other thirty-seven as well.

Promising hope and change, Obama has failed to halt torture, rendition and offensive wars of occupation by our nation. But perhaps our voices, raised together might prevail on Governor Deal to do the right thing here at home.