Georgia RFRA Dies in Face of National Backlash

Outcry Over Indiana and Arkansas Shifts Debate on Using Religion to Discriminate

Legislation that could have allowed businesses and individuals to use religion to discriminate failed Thursday night in Georgia following a national backlash to similar laws that passed in Indiana and Arkansas.

"Religious freedom is a fundamental American value, but the debate around Indiana has made it crystal-clear that it should not serve as a smokescreen for authorizing discrimination or letting individuals use their religious beliefs to harm others,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The conversation has forced politicians to reconsider policies that could allow discrimination and harm to countless people by denying them access to basic rights, such as employment, health care, or education."

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Everything That Is Wrong With US Prisons in One Picture

A disturbing image hit the newswires this week, highlighting the barbaric conditions that are all too common in the American prison system. The photo shows a young prisoner in Georgia, who appears to be badly beaten, on his knees with a makeshift leash around his neck, while two other prisoners pose behind him, one holding the leash.

Incredibly, Georgia prison officials have focused their public reaction on the fact that the photo was apparently taken with a contraband cellphone, as if that were the cause of the brutality on display.

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Thompson v DeKalb County

On January 29, 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed a federal lawsuit challenging debt collection practices that have resulted in the jailing of people simply because they are poor. The case was brought on behalf of Kevin Thompson, a black teenager in DeKalb County, Georgia, who was jailed because he could not afford to pay court fines and probation company fees stemming from a traffic ticket. 

The ACLU charged that DeKalb County and the for-profit company Judicial Correction Services, Inc. (JCS) teamed up to engage in a coercive debt collection scheme that focused on revenue generation at the expense of protecting poor people's rights.

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OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM ACLU-GA ON CHAMBLEE SHOOTING

The ACLU-GA would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Anthony Hill. Unfortunately this case is not an isolated incident. Far too many Americans who have mental disabilities die every year in police encounters, and many more are seriously injured. People of color with disabilities are disproportionately affected. At this time we join the Atlanta Police Chief in noting the importance of increased training for police on excessive use of force, especially in regards to interactions with people with mental disabilities.

Georgia: Enact Reform Bill on For-Profit Probation

Would Impose Transparency, Curb Abuse, Protect Rights of Poor

(New York, March 11, 2015)— A bill passed today by Georgia’s House of Representatives includes important and far-reaching reforms of the state’s abuse-ridden for-profit probation industry, Human Rights Watch, the national American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU of GA) said today.  The bill will next be considered by the state Senate.

House Bill 310’s provisions on private probation represent months of hard work by Governor Nathan Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Council to address what its co-chair has called the “moral imperative” to deal with the “inequities and abuses” of the state’s for-profit probation industry.

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Immigration Panel on Grassroots Resistance to Immigration Detention

Moderated by Azadeh Shahshahani

ACLU of Georgia Release Fact Sheet on SB 6: Legislation that Violates Privacy, Invites Corruption, and Would Embroil Georgia in Controversy and Litigation

Senate Bill 6 has made headlines for its controversial provision taking driver’s licenses away from immigrants allowed to remain legally in the U.S. under a grant of deferred action and work authorization, which would make Georgia the only state to enact legislation eliminating a category of lawfully present immigrants from its drivers’ license statute.  However, SB 6 goes far beyond targeting DREAMers, victims of domestic violence, and other immigrants granted deferred action.

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Chaplain Employed by For-Profit Prison Accused of Whitewashing Immigrant Detention Abuses

The for-profit prison system in the United States is not only a major factor in the emergence of "manufactured crime," it also makes money off of a national war on Latino migrants through the "detention" (in other words, incarceration) of persons - including minors - seeking economic and security refuge in the US.

A ministry located in Georgia - Alterna: Love Crosses Borders (El Amor Cruza Fronteras) - that provides compassionate assistance to migrants from south of the Mexican border monitors the nearby Stewart Detention Center, run for profit by the Corrections Corporations of America (CCA). The facility is the largest incarceration complex specifically for migrants in the US, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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Mosque Controversy in Georgia

Muslim-Americans in Kennesaw, Georgia who had hoped to use space in a retail shopping center as a prayer center recently had to confront hateful and ignorant comments from some residents, accusing them of being "enemies" and "infiltrators."

Even though community members who had applied for the permit had agreed to parking and other restrictions, the Kennesaw City Council refused to issue a permit by a 4-1 vote. The city's "retail only" excuse quickly fell apart considering that the city council had granted a permit to a Pentecostal church in a retail center. This pointed to blatant discrimination.

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My Experiences at the CCA Operated Stewart Detention Center #ShutDownStewart #ExposeandClose

I was shocked and appalled to read the December 9, 2014 op-ed, “Report of nightmarish detention untrue,” by Rev. Joseph Shields of Stewart in response to the article “Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia” by Azadeh Shahshahani.  The picture painted of this prison by Rev. Shields, an employee of the Corrections Corporation of America, bears no resemblance to my experience at Stewart.

I was detained at Stewart from January to June 2011.  I crushed my toe and twisted my leg while working in the Stewart Detention Center’s kitchen for sub-minimum wages, and both injuries were undertreated.

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Faith Leaders Denounce Private Prison’s Use of Chaplain to Whitewash Record of Abuse

Open Letter to Corrections Corporation of America Laments the Use of Staff Chaplain to Hide Treatment of Immigrants Detained at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia

In December, faith leaders and immigration activists from around the country were strongly disappointed to read an op-ed titled “Report of nightmarish detention untrue,” penned by Corrections Corporation of America chaplain, Rev. Joseph Shields, and published in The Hill as a response to the article “Living Nightmare for Detained Immigrants in Georgia” by Azadeh Shahshahani. In response, faith leaders have addressed an open letter to Rev. Joseph Shields and the Corrections Corporation of America, calling on the corporation and the facility’s chaplain to “stand on spiritual authority, alongside the unjustly detained children of God, and against any actor, who dehumanizes, commodifies or mistreats those entrusted to his spiritual care, including his employer.”

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