Senator: Signs of improvement at Atlanta penitentiary, but more work needed

In September, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff introduced legislation to overhaul federal prison oversight following an investigation into the prison

By Tia Mitchell
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — After touring the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary and speaking with staff and inmates, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff said he sees improvements at the prison.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff speaks Wednesday after an inspection of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.
U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff speaks Wednesday after an inspection of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. (Photo/Arvin Temkar of AJC via TNS)

But he is not ready to declare that the problems he identified during a 10-month investigation of the prison have been solved.

“I’m not satisfied yet,” the senator said. “And we’ll continue to hold the leadership here accountable to sustaining the change that is necessary.”

During his tour, Ossoff visited kitchen facilities where he had previously heard complaints about health and sanitation violations. He also visited the health service center where inmates had complained about not receiving proper care, a housing unit and even the wing where people are held in solitary confinement.

All showed signs of progress, Ossoff said during a news conference afterward.

Colette Peters, the new director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, joined him but declined to address the media with the senator. The final stop of the tour was a meeting with corrections officers and other staff represented by a labor union.

The union’s president, Morell Huguley, said Ossoff took the time to explain his concerns about possible mismanagement and misconduct. But he also listened and appeared to have an open mind, Huguley said. Staffers have been on edge because there has been massive turnover with management and in facility operations, and Ossoff’s visit could alleviate some of their worries, he said.

“Morale is on its way up,” Huguley said, “and we’re just going to continue to do what we’re doing and be the best we can be.”

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