ATLANTA — Community advocates and family members continue to allege inmates are subjected to deplorable condition inside Georgia prisons.
During a small protest outside the parole board in Atlanta Thursday, wives of inmates claimed their husbands are sleeping in showers, have little access to nutritious food or running water and don’t have access to proper hygiene.
The allegations come days after an alleged riot took place at Ware State Prison, where five people - including two guards and three inmates - were hurt.
In a cell phone video shared with 11Alive, apparently taken by an inmate, the inmate claimed “health issues” were the reason for the riot. The inmate also claimed the power was cut off in the prison and inmates were only being given a cup of ice and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches three times a day.
In an email response to the videos the Georgia Department of Corrections said, "at no time during or after this incident did the facility lose power."
"Currently, there are maintenance staff at the facility checking each and every cell for any inoperable toilet fixtures," the agency continued. "During this lockdown situation, inmates are being escorted to showers, and once lockdown is lifted, they have unlimited access to showers. Inmates are being provided meals daily.”
However, on Thursday, Tamara McIntyre, a former correctional officer at Coastal State Prison near Savannah, said the issues have been ongoing. Her husband is currently an inmate at Ware State.
“My husband is calling me complaining about not eating," she said. "As an ex-correctional officer, I’m like, 'no, you’re eating, you’re eating.' But, no. They wasn’t eating. They’re not showering. They’re not doing anything but sitting them guys in those cells, 24-7."
Video shows conditions inside Ware State Prison in Georgia
The former guard said the last time she talked to her husband was two days before the violent attack at Ware State.
“He said you have to answer my calls, cause I might be up here and they riot. And two days later, they get in a riot,” she said.
At the time, McIntyre said her husband complained of a lack of water and food.
“He said, ‘Man I been trying to yell to get someone to get us some water, some food, some something’,” she added.
Shinaviya Blackwell said she also hasn’t heard from her husband in a week.
“I don’t even know if he has a scratch on his leg from all this going on,” she said.
Blackwell claimed the last time she checked in with her husband, he was sleeping in the shower room because of a lack of beds.
The organizer of Thursday’s protest, Minister Dwight Futch, is former New York corrections officer and former inmate of Cobb County Jail. He claimed the issues at Ware State extend to other prisons in the state.
“[I] slept on the floor, was not given the showers as frequently as we know we should have, the backdoor to the yard were very rarely opened so we could get some air. It was just an abuse,” Futch said of his time in Cobb County.
In addition to Futch, Blackwell, and McIntyre’s allegations, an 11Alive viewer sent an email claiming Ware State Prison is not providing any protections against COVID-19.
“Since COVID started they haven’t been given any hand sanitizer, mask to wear, one of the inmates that passed away was in my sons dorm. They treat them inhuman. My son was put in a holding cage because of a seizure for hours and no one checked on him,” the mom wrote in her email.
According to the most current data from the Georgia Department of Corrections, 32 staff and 22 inmates have been reported to have COVID-19 infections. Of those, 12 staff and five inmates have recovered. Two inmates have died from the virus.
Futch and the families of inmates said besides improving the prison conditions, they want the prison system to do a better job of communicating with them about the state of the facilities and their families.
“We’re not asking for a favor. We just think it’s a right thing to do,” Futch said. “Thank god for the illegal telephones, because if we didn’t have the illegal telephones, we would continue to be lied to.”
He said he also like to see a response from Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Tim Ward.
“When your prison goes up in smoke, that means it’s time for some changes, because that means there’s something you did not do,” Futch said.
Although GDC responded to earlier allegations, 11Alive reached out again to the current claims and is still awaiting a response.