By Eljeer Hawkins, Bronx, New York
”My life is in Imminent Danger”
– Shawn Whatley, 2/10/2011
Since the brutal attack on Shawn Whatley by Telfair state prison guards, on January 12, 2011 Socialist Alternative/CWI launched a solidarity campaign to defend and highlight the case of Shawn Whatley and Georgia prison strike activists. But the life of Shawn Whatley still hangs in the balance along with countless others.
Shawn Whatley as of today (3/1/11) is being held at Jackson state prison. On February 1, 2011 Shawn Whatley had submitted a sworn statement to Brian Owens, Commissioner of Department of Corrections, requesting extreme protective custody from all Georgia Department corrections staff/employees sent from Ware state prison.
Subsequently, Shawn was transferred from Ware to Jackson state prison. Shawn has indicated that his 8th and 14th Amendment rights are being violated as he is held in perpetual lockdown every day. Shawn is deprived of property, family access through visits and phone calls, mail privileges (until a grievance was filed), contact with lawyers, adequate food, medical attention after the brutal attack on January 12, 2011, and he has to sleep on the hard and cold floor of a cell with bloodstained walls around him.
Shawn is not at Jackson state prison for disciplinary reasons but for protection from retaliatory violence by corrections officers. The reason for his transfer was for his safety. The problem is that Jackson state prison is under the direction of the Georgia state prison system and despite Shawn being under protective custody, the prospect of further brutality and inhuman conditions is an ever-present reality Shawn faces. In his letter to Commissioner Owens, Shawn asked: You expect me to eat food served and prepared by the Georgia department of corrections, the very ones that I have requested extreme protection from? Does that make sense?
On February 21, 2011 seven Georgia prison guards were arrested on charges of beating an inmate, inflicting injuries so severe that the prisoner was in the hospital for “an extended period of time,” according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. These arrests were made due to the pressure of protests of activists, organizations, families of inmates, and groups like Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights.
We must continue to raise the issue that the retaliatory violence after the historic Georgia prisoners strike isn’t due to rogue corrections officers within the Georgia penal system, but is in fact ingrained in the entire racist and inhumane prison-industrial complex that serves the interests of a capitalist system.
The struggle to defend and demand justice for Shawn Whatley is an urgent task for activists and social justice organizations and we will continue our pursuit for justice and dignity for Georgia state prisoners.
- Immediate access to family, friends and lawyers through phone calls, mail and visits.
- Proper medical care with frequent checkups by medical staff and the dietary needs necessary to control Shawn’s high blood pressure condition.
- An end to the inhumane and unsanitary living conditions with a clean cell and bed.
- Shawn’s transfer to a federal prison facility that’s not under the jurisdiction of the Georgia state prison system.