ACLU Letters Urge Release of Two Individuals Ages 65 and 81

ATLANTA – The ACLU and ACLU of Georgia urge the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole to use its constitutional authority to expedite its review of all persons in state custody who are over the age of 62. The ACLU wrote the Board on behalf of two individuals who are well into the age of significant risk for serious complications and mortality from COVID-19. Both men also have disabilities that further increase their likelihood of complications and death from the virus. Each has family support and homes to which they can return. 

Mr. Stanley Godsey, 65, has hypertension and diabetes. Additionally, Mr. Godsey has chronic asthma and pleurisy, conditions that affect his lungs and heighten his risk of severe illness, complications, or death if he were to contract COVID-19. 

Mr. Swanner, 81, has diabetes and high blood pressure and has had quintuple bypass surgery all of which, in addition to his advanced age, heighten his risk of severe illness, complications, or death if he were to contract COVID-19.

“With COVID spreading rapidly in Georgia prisons, we urge the Board to take urgent action to release these two men and the thousands of others who are particularly vulnerable because of their age or disabilities,” said Zoe Brennan-Krohn, staff attorney at the ACLU Disability Rights Program. “Paroling significant numbers of vulnerable people would also make social distancing possible within prisons and slow the spread of COVID-19. This will not only protect prisoners, but also protect prison staff and their loved ones,” said Zoe Brennan-Krohn, staff attorney, ACLU Disability Rights Program. 

“None of these men received a death sentence when they were convicted. Yet, if they remain in prison, that is what could happen. They could die,” said Kosha Tucker, staff attorney of the ACLU of Georgia. “Releasing these individuals is not only well within the Board’s authority, but also the morally just action to take to contain the damage the virus is already causing across our state and in jails and prisons.”

The Georgia Constitution authorizes the board to “parole any person who is age 62 or older.” The outbreak of the coronavirus in prisons, jails, and detention centers continues to worsen as staff members and incarcerated people test positive. As of April 14, 2020, three people incarcerated in Georgia prisons have died of COVID-19, as has one deputy warden. Sixty-seven people incarcerated in Georgia prisons have tested positive for the virus, as have 59 staff members. Thousands of people age 62 and over in Georgia prisons face increased risk of complications or death if they contract COVID-19. The board recently announced its decision to evaluate up to 200 people for immediate release in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.