Georgia State Prison

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Front view of the Georgia State Prison. July 2007

Georgia State Prison is the main maximum security facility in the state of Georgia. Located on Georgia Highway 147 in unincorporated Tattnall County, outside of Reidsville,[1] It is a part of the Georgia Department of Corrections. "GSP" houses approximately 1550 inmates. The current warden is Robert Toole.[2]

The prison was designed by Tucker & Howell in the 1930s. The modern classic architecture included a frieze by Julian Harris titled Rehabilitation depicting trades and occupations.[3] Many renovations were made. The expanding crime rate has added a multitude of buildings that span from the original structure. It has all security levels (Trusty to Maximum including Hi-Maximum) inmates. This prison houses some of the most dangerous inmates in the State of Georgia. The prison has counseling programs aimed at reducing the recidivism rate that rival many in the country.[citation needed]

Georgia State Prison served as a death row prison. The skeletal remains of an electric chair can still be found in the museum on the upper floors of the main building, as well as prison documents containing names, authorizations, and last statements of the prisoners. In the 1940s and 1950s, volunteers were offered $25 to flip the switches which would start the flow of electricity and eventually lead to the death of the prisoner. Inmates would often be doused with saltwater to speed up their deaths, though it often took up to 10 minutes for them to reach their demise. Male death row inmates are now housed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison (GD&CP) near Jackson, GA in Butts County.

The Georgia State Prison in Reidsville was the filming location of the film, The Longest Yard (1974 film), which starred Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, and James Hampton.

Georgia State Prison was the first US prison to be accredited by the American Medical Association and the American Correctional Association.[4]

Death penalty[edit]

The Georgia General Assembly passed a law on August 16, 1924 that abolished hanging for all capital crimes. From that point forward, instead of being hanged by the sheriff of the county or judicial circuit where their crimes had occurred, the condemned were to be electrocuted at the Georgia State Prison at Milledgeville. During that year an electric chair was installed in the prison, and the first execution in that method occurred on September 13, 1924. On January 1, 1938 the site of the execution chamber relocated to the new Georgia State Prison at Reidsville. From 1964 until 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court had suspended executions. The site of execution was moved to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in June 1980, and a new electric chair was installed in place of the previous one, which was moved to a display at the Georgia State Prison.[5]

Notable prisoners[edit]

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was transferred from the Dekalb County Jail in Decatur, Georgia, to Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia. He was released on October 27, 1960 on a $2,000 bond.[6]

Until recently, GSP housed radical activist H. Rap Brown, now known as Jamil Al-Amin. Al-Amin was the chairman of SNCC in the late 1960s. In 2007, he was transferred to a federal facility where he now resides.

The facility also housed Wayne Williams. He is now at Hancock State Prison in Sparta, Hancock County, Georgia.[citation needed]


Further reading[edit]

Interview with E. B. Caldwell, Warden at GSP, 1971–1974[where?]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°00′19″N 82°09′53″W / 32.00528°N 82.16472°W / 32.00528; -82.16472