[Photo from electis.blogs.wm.edu]
One of my proudest career accomplishments happened early in my career when I was a young Assistant D.A. in south Georgia. It involved my investigation of fraud and corruption at one of the county prison camps, or "work farms." The abuses--including thefts by guards and prisoner abuse--are too numerous to list here.
For instance, prisoners told me about witnessing guards loading meat from the work camp kitchen into their car trunks. Also, although money was budgeted for recreational items, there wasn't a single ball of any kind anywhere in the camp! Where did all the money go? Another abuse involved the camp's deplorable solitary confinement cell, which was called "the hole." It was literally a hole dug into the ground, into which rain water, snakes and rats would venture and keep company with the unlucky prisoner confined there.
What could I do? Look, I was a tough young prosecutor. I was no "bleeding heart!" But, in my heart, I knew that the horrendous prison conditions and crimes were unconstitutional and flat wrong!
Although I was just out of law school, and new on the job at the D.A.'s Office, I knew I must do something. But I also soon learned that the local politicians were part of the problem and would not help. Therefore, I decided that the best disinfectant would be to focus the news media spotlight and public scrutiny on the prison problems.
So, with help from a cooperative criminal defense lawyer friend, we essentially utilized a preliminary hearing about a prisoner's escape case to expose the work camp abuses to the news media and public. Over the course of several days, we produced witness after witness who testified about all the fraud and corruption at the work camp! The lawyer for the local sheriff and county commissioners tried to intervene and stop the hearing. But the magistrate judge, who seemed to enjoy the media attention, sustained my objection that the county's attorney had no standing to object! The hearing continued until the public airing was complete. The news media also helped with headline after headline about the prison problems.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending! After this public exposure, the politicians could no longer hide! The politicians scurried like roaches under an overturned woodpile! Several county commissioners finally got behind an effort to clean up the work camp. A number of prison employees either retired or were fired. Several more were prosecuted by me for theft. The prison kitchen now had meat to serve! Also "the hole" was eliminated!
So, now, I hope you can see why this investigation of public corruption is one of my proudest early career accomplishments!