Jail, Justice, and Race in Southwest Georgia
Date:  06-13-2019

Huge for-profit prison probation companies are responsible for probation becoming the state's default sentence, even for minor offenses
From The Vera Institute of Justice:

Last spring, in the dark, early hours of the morning, dozens of people waited to attend Sunday service with former President Jimmy Carter at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. The morning air was cool and humid and smelled of damp clay and wood smoke. Inside the small church, President Carter greeted his fellow congregants with his recognizable smile and a still-strong voice. He asked questions and conversed with us as he taught. “When did women get the right to vote?” he asked. “1920,” someone said. “That’s not true,” he replied. “That’s when white women got the right to vote. Black women did not get the right to vote until the 1950s.” He described segregation as wrong in the eyes of Jesus. “White people,” he continued, “accepted it because it was favorable to them.”

Sumter County, where Plains is located, is in the Black Belt of the Deep South, once in the center of the slave-based plantation economy of the United States, and then of the Confederacy. Andersonville, 30 miles to the northwest of Plains, was the site of a Confederate prisoner of war camp during the Civil War. During its 14 months of existence, nearly 13,000 Union prisoners died there of malnutrition and disease.

More than 150 years later, Georgia has extremely high rates of jail and prison incarceration of a different sort, along with high rates of probation. Almost everyone in the state has been—or knows someone who has been—affected by the justice system. Many of the people I spoke with in rural southwest Georgia, when discussing jail incarceration, transitioned fluidly to talking about the history of slavery, exploitation, racism, social control, and voter suppression. Continue reading >>>