Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prison Litigation Concludes Court Action over Reidsville Conditions Finally Ends

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prison Litigation Concludes Court Action over Reidsville Conditions Finally Ends

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- A federal judge ended a quarter-century-old

litigation yesterday over prison conditions that brought

monumental changes in Georgia's system for incarcerating

criminals.

The signature of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Anthony A.

Alaimo terminated consent orders in Guthrie v. Evans, a lawsuit

that brought federal court oversight to daily operations at the

state's toughest maximum-security facility, Georgia State Prison

in Reidsville.

"This really is a historic day in the history of prison

litigation, not only because it's been so long in coming but

because so much has been accomplished," Alaimo said.

"That Judge Alaimo would take this action is very encouraging,"

Gov. Zell Miller said. "I think it speaks volumes because for

many years Judge Alaimo has been one of the sternest critics of

Georgia's prison system."

State Department of Corrections officials put the cost of

changes made throughout the state based on the lawsuit and

Alaimo's orders at more than $400 million.

"The general public does not realize the progress that we've

made in the prison system," the Brunswick-based judge said.

After Alaimo signed the order, Robert Cullen, who represents

inmates in the case, told reporters, "I am certain a number of

my clients will be extremely unhappy."

Corrections Commissioner Wayne Garner took it as a sign that

the senior judge thinks Georgia has earned the right to run its

own prisons.

"Today, the longest-running, most wide-ranging litigation in

Georgia prison history came to an end under my administration,"

Garner boasted. "I am happy to say that the end of the consent

order means that Judge Alaimo is very satisfied with our current

prison policies and operations."

Garner has worked to remove some of the comforts added to

prisons, such as ice machines and exercise equipment, as part of

a campaign to make prisons less hospitable. …

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