Harsh isolation cells give rise to second lawsuit in Georgia

For the second time in two years, an inmate has filed a lawsuit claiming a solitary confinement cell in which he is being held is unnecessarily harsh punishment allowing almost no human contact and no personal possessions — restrictions the inmate has lived under for more than six years.

Inmate Miguel Jackson claims he has been in the “special management unit” reserved for dangerous and disruptive inmates for the past 6 1/2 years, even though the charges that landed him in the cell were dismissed years ago.

Jackson claims a Department of Corrections committee that routinely reviewed his circumstances has repeatedly said he should be transferred off the restrictive unit, known as Tier III, at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Butts County, 50 miles south of Atlanta.

Jackson’s description of the special unit is identical to allegations in another pending federal lawsuit that was filed in 2015 by inmate Timothy Gumm, who had been isolated for more than seven years even though the attempted escape charge against him had been removed.

The Department of Corrections declined to comment on either lawsuit because both are pending.

RELATED: Report faults Georgia prison guards in inmate escapes

ALSO: 46 Georgia prison guards charged with transporting drugs

AND: Inmates use drones, apps to skirt security

Jackson’s lawyer, Mario Williams, wrote that Jackson is being held in the solitary confinement for “no justifiable reason.”

Williams wrote that Jackson was being held in the unit because he filed a lawsuit in 2012 against several correctional officers at Smith State Prion, claiming the officers assaulted him and another inmate, Kelevin Stevenson, on Dec. 31, 2010.

Jackson, who is sentenced to prison until 2048 for armed robbery, said he and another inmate, Kelevin Stevenson, were “brutally beaten” with a hammer and flashlight handles while they were handcuffed and not resisting officers. The aleged assault by officers happened during an inmate protest over working without pay.

Jackson was initially charged with aggravated battery against an officer, but a Tattnall County grand jury indicted him on a charge of obstructing an officer. A judge dismissed the obstruction charge against Jackson on Feb. 3, 2016.

According to DOC policies, a three-person committee is supposed to review the “special management unit” cases every 90 days and recommend if the prisoner should remain there or be moved to a cell block that allows more freedom. Twice the deputy warden and warden agreed with the committee’s recommendations that Jackson be moved off the special unit, but still he has remained, the suit said.

The special management unit was created for dangerous and disruptive inmates. And within the unit there are varying levels of restriction. Inmates like Jackson who are assigned to the most restrictive unit are held in 7- by 13-foot cells 24 hours a day except for the 2 1/2 hours a week they are allowed out for exercise. In contrast, general population inmates go outside at least five days a week and they are allowed to linger in common areas outside their cells much of the day.

Personal items are not allowed in the special management unit, while general population inmates can have books, music, photographs and food items.

“The SMU’s 192 solitary confinement cells are specially designed to isolate people by depriving them of sensory stimuli and restricting their movement,” Jackson’s lawyer wrote.

A metal shield covers the exterior windows so that “virtually no natural air or sunlight enters the cells,” the federal suit said.

Georgia mysteries 

A “cold case” is a criminal investigation where all leads have been exhausted and the case remains unsolved. Cold cases are sometimes solved because someone had the courage to come forward and provide a new detail to investigators. To read more about Georgia’s unsolved homicides and missing person cases go to myAJC.com/coldcases.

Cell doors are solid metal and have small, grated windows that are blocked by a sliding metal cover. Some cells include a shower head and drain so those inmates bathe where they sleep. Inmates in cells without are strip searched and handcuffed and shackled when they are taking out to bathe.

Inmates in the most restrictive unit are limited to one visit with relatives a month, during which no physical contact is allowed. General population inmates, meanwhile, are allowed at least six hours for “contact visits” every weekend and on holidays.

“People in the SMU, particularly in the more restrictive phases, frequently have difficulty adjusting to prolonged isolation,” Jackson’s suit said. “Some prisoners scream for hours on end. Others destroy property, bang on doors constantly, disfigure or cut themselves or smear feces on the walls of their cells.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

'Kill the NRA' written across billboard on Louisville interstate
'Kill the NRA' written across billboard on Louisville interstate

A vandalized billboard on a major interstate highway in Kentucky has become a focal point for both sides of the gun control debate in the wake of last week’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. A sign along I-65 in Louisville reads “Kill the NRA,” the Louisville Courier-Journal reported....
Will Atlanta hit a record high today?
Will Atlanta hit a record high today?

Today: Warm with fog. High: 77 Tonight: Patch fog. Low: 59 Tomorrow: Warm streak continues. High: 76 Atlanta could come close to a record high Tuesday, according to Channel 2 Action News. “Outside of the wedge of cool air in northeast Georgia, it will be warm,” Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said. The record...
Hapeville hosts monthly ‘Meet & Eat’ gatherings
Hapeville hosts monthly ‘Meet & Eat’ gatherings

The city of Hapeville launched a new program called Meet & Eat. It’s for anyone in the Hapeville community to come together to meet new people, discuss local happenings in the community and enjoy lunch together. Meet & Eat meets the first Wednesday of each month, except the Summer months of June, July, and August, when meetings “take a...
East Point hosts Filming 101 information session
East Point hosts Filming 101 information session

Because an earlier session garned overwhelming interest, the city of East Point has set another Film 101 information and listening session for 6:30 - 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 at City Hall Annex, 3121 Norman Berry Drive. East Point businesses and residents, along with film industry partners, can attend to learn more about the filming process in the...
THE LATEST: Woman charged with 14 counts of arson lost home in divorce before Paulding County fire
THE LATEST: Woman charged with 14 counts of arson lost home in divorce before Paulding County fire

A woman charged with 14 counts of first-degree arson had just lost her house in a divorce when she started a massive fire over the weekend, authorities said. The blaze that destroyed or damaged more than a dozen homes in Paulding County started when Adrienne Satterly lit a pile of mattresses on fire in the dining room area of the home, ...
More Stories