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."
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.
DeKalb County has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit accusing it of improperly jailing poor people who couldn’t afford misdemeanor probation plans at Recorder’s Court.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Georgia #Not1More Looks to Prevent Future ICE Abuses
Members of the Georgia #Not1More coalition today announced the latest victory in their efforts to end unconstitutional detention per ICE detainer requests in Georgia.
DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey L. Mann has announced that, effective immediately, he will end submission to federal detainer requests, a centerpiece of the failed Secure Communities deportation quota program, without a warrant or other sufficie
“I requested and received a legal review of this practice,” said Sheriff Mann. “The law does not allow us to hold anyone without probable cause. If our judicial system determines that an individual should no longer be held in custody, it is not in my authority to countermand that decision. We all benefit from a nation of laws that regulate the ways people can be detained, and we should be grateful that is the case.”
Representatives of the Georgia #Not1More coalition welcomed the Sheriff’s announcement and will continue to carefully monitor the implementation of the DHS initiative replacing Secure Communities, Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), due to fundamental concerns with police-ICE collaboration exemplified in previous ICE experiments.
“Rejecting ICE’s detainer requests makes all Georgians safer and brings DeKalb County policy in line with the Constitution. We’re glad to see Sheriff Mann taking proactive measures to address the harm to both public safety and community trust in law enforcement that involvement in federal deportation efforts has caused. We will continue to work with the Sheriff to create a bright line between law enforcement and federal deportation efforts to protect our families and prevent ICE programs from violating anyone’s rights regardless of what new name the agency gives to its quota pursuits.” –Adelina Nicholls, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).
“SONG and the Georgia #Not1More coalition are heartened by this decision, and we hope that Sheriff Mann’s action on this reflects further commitment on behalf of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department to work with immigrant communities and our allies post-implementation. We have directly experienced the harm inflicted on our communities by ICE, and with the recent political maneuvers at the federal level, it is increasingly important for our communities to remain vigilant and aware of how this implementation will happen in Georgia.” – Paulina Helm-Hernandez, Southerners On New Ground (SONG).
“We Commend Sheriff Mann for putting an end to the unconstitutional practice of prolonging individuals’ detention per ICE detainer requets. This action is sure to increase community trust in the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. Going forward, we will monitor the implementation of the new DHS program, PEP, and will document and take action on any violations resulting from continued local law enforcement entanglement with ICE.” – Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia.
Georgia #Not1More coalition is a coalition made up of: Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Southerners On New Ground (SONG), US Human Rights Network, ACLU of Georgia, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Jobs with Justice, Georgia WAND, Racial Action Justice Center, coalicion de lideres latinos-CLILA, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Southeastern Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN), Women Watch Afrika, Project South, Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America, Georgia Detention Watch, GA Moral Mondays, and Atlanta American Friends Service Committee.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office announced this week it will no longer comply with requests from the federal government to hold detainees beyond their scheduled release dates so they can face deportation.
The office’s new policy applies to detainers, requests for jails to hold people for an additional 48 hours — excluding weekends and holidays — after they would otherwise be released. This gives U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement time to take custody of them and attempt to deport them.