Freedom walkers take steps for prisoners - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Freedom walkers take steps for prisoners

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September 10, 2006

Americus -- It's a journey for justice. The Prison and Jail Project started it's annual Freedomwalk today in Americus.

It's a 100-mile walk throughout South Georgia calling attention to poor jail and prison conditions, and unjust law enforcement practices.

A flag representing the injustice of the current criminal justice system lead the way for more than 30 freedom walkers.

"We need to bring this to the attention of the people of this country."

Issues these walkers want known are the unjust treatment of people in court, and the poor, over crowded conditions in jails and prisons nationwide.

"They're very deadly, they're racist, and they hurt rather than heal."

Thomas Pate knows how cruel paying hard time can be. The ex-con spent up to 13 years behind bars in several prisons, and much time in jail as well.

"You have maybe a 12X12 cell, you have to walk over the people when they peed, everything's spread all over the floor, you got people laying inside there for four or five days," said Thomas Pate.

It's conditions like these freedom walkers speak out against, and share with lawmakers why they need to change.

This year's Freedomwalk started right here at the Sumter County courthouse. Walkers will continue for a week, spreading a message of justice to South Georgia prisons and jails.

"We need to look at the enormous cost that the criminal justice system is to us and our communities, and to look for way to keep people from having to go to jail," said John Cole Vodicka.

It's these things freedomwalkers walk for, and for former inmates taking steps toward turning their lives around. For some, prison time leaves behind it's scars.

Memories that Thomas Pate won't ever forget.

"We're not considered humans, the way they speak to us, they speak down to us like we're the scum of the Earth," said Pate.

Freedomwalkers will march on in South Georgia.

"I want to do anything I can to help make things better."

And be a voice for people they say don't have one.

The freedomwalk began in Americus and walkers are walking through Macon, Taylor, and Marion Counties. Vigils and rallies will be held at different county jails, courthouses, and prisons along the way.

The walk ends back in Americus on September 16th.

Feedback: news@walb.com?sujbect=FreedomWalk/NJ